England 21-24 New Zealand
Lancaster: England heading in right direction
Tom Hamilton at Twickenham
November 8, 2014
Richie McCaw scores for New Zealand © Getty Images

Stuart Lancaster is confident England are heading in the right direction despite falling to their fifth defeat on the trot against the All Blacks.

England fell to a 24-21 loss in their opening autumn international despite leading by three points at the break. Lancaster took heart from some aspects of their performance but lamented their lack of time together as a group leading into Saturday's game at Twickenham.

The All Blacks were at one stage down to 14 men with Dane Coles sin-binned and Lancaster felt their management of that 10-minute period and the poor conditions in the second half were key factors in the match.

"When you've had one-and-a-half weeks' preparation and you've got young lads making their debuts at Twickenham against the All Blacks, that's a positive," Lancaster said. "The performance of the pack was excellent - it couldn't have been far off 100 per cent lineout - we put a lot of pressure on their ball and there was some good rugby on show in the first half.

The Verdict from Twickenham

  • Accuracy cannot be bought. Everything the All Blacks do to tweak those little bits here and there eventually bring about an inevitability when it comes to Test matches. Focus translates into accuracy. After a nervy first half where New Zealand were surprised by England's fast start, they strangled them in the second 40 as the rain closed in and only allowed them a sniff at the end when the result was already tattooed into history.
  • At the start of the match following the haka, England kept the All Blacks waiting. They spent their time taking off tracksuits and then going into a huddle while New Zealand waited to kick-off. But when it came down to the key third-quarter of the match, it was England who had to be patient while the All Blacks built phase after phase. They did not give England an inch and instead ensured they were barracked inside their own 22. The only time the ball left England's half was the odd kick through. It was a masterful lesson in game management.
  • Read the full verdict from Twickenham.

"We missed one opportunity in the first half which could have made a difference. In terms of what we need to work on - the accuracy of our kicking, the pressure we put on ourselves playing in and around our halfway line. When the weather turned New Zealand maximised that opportunity well. When the hooker was in the sin bin they managed that well as well and we couldn't get the territory to get close to them in the second half."

For Graham Rowntree, he singled out Chris Robshaw for praise post-match. "I'm proud of some of the performances," he said. "I thought the captain stepped up. There have been some questions about him this season but he had an excellent game. The new guys - George Kruis came on the field and I can't speak highly enough about him. He has been so composed. We just couldn't get the field position to put the pressure on New Zealand so that's what we need to look at."

England now face South Africa next week and despite having fallen to defeat in their opening match of the November series, Lancaster is adamant his side are heading in the right direction with the World Cup a year out. "We've played them [New Zealand] four times now and we haven't got the right result but we don't feel we're far away. We've got good players watching the game today so we'll keep our confidence and the direction in which we're going.

"We're 12 months away from a World Cup but it's not about that, it's about South Africa now."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.

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