England v New Zealand
Critics will fire up England
November 28, 2008
Smith has backed England to up their game against the All Blacks at Twickenham this weekend © Getty Images
Assistant coach Brian Smith has predicted a ferocious response from England against New Zealand this weekend as they look to silence their critics.
England were handed a humiliating 42-6 defeat by South Africa at Twickenham last time out which prompted widespread criticism of a side that was found woefully wanting against the power and pace of the Springboks. Media reports urged England manager Martin Johnson to read the riot act while some called for the sacking of captain Steve Borthwick.
The all-conquering All Blacks are heavy favourites to complete an historic third grand slam tour with victory on Saturday but Smith has promised they will not get things all their own way.
"If someone says we have no chance it is good - it fuels us and inspires us more," said Smith. "We know we are not hopeless. We are clearly a team that is building. We are creating opportunities but we need to be more ruthless in our execution."
Smith revealed harsh words were said in the England camp on Monday and Tuesday as the team picked through the pieces of the Springboks mauling but the coaches are anxious the young side are not shorn of their confidence when they run out to face New Zealand.
"If we go into this game on the weekend feeling sorry for ourselves then we will get thumped," said scrum coach Graham Rowntree. "It's hard. The players are hurting but they are very young and inexperienced. We were honest with them on Monday and Tuesday but then we have to build them back up again. We are not going to enter the game with any fear. This is the last game of the series for them to give a good account of themselves."
New Zealand are the No.1 ranked team in the world and the 2008 All Blacks are keen to join their 1978 and 2005 counterparts in the record books with an undefeated tour - and they enter this game with another record in their sights - they have yet to concede a Test try on this tour and no other side has completed a tour with that proud statistic.
But Smith insisted England would not be fazed by the aura that surrounds the All Blacks.
"New Zealand pull their trousers on one leg before the other like the rest of us," said the former Australia and Ireland fly-half. There is no mystery about it. There are some teams who don't do themselves any favours by getting caught up in the mystery. I don't think our players will get caught up in that.
"We have a very healthy respect for what has by and large been the best team in the world. They might not have the gold medals but they are the pace-setters."
England enjoyed around 65% of possession and forced the Springboks to make more than twice as many tackles - but lost the Test five tries to nil. Forwards coach John Wells believes England will have to take those painful lessons on the chin if they are to develop into a world-beating outfit once again.
"You should not accept these kind of results for England - but this is a young side," said Wells. "Everyone remembers England's good days in 2003 but they went through a lot of pain and lost a lot of matches before that.
"We are going to have to grow again and bring young lads through quickly. South Africa got smashed 49-0 in Sydney 15 months before they won the World Cup. You can turn things around. We are not that far away. We created some cracking opportunities. If we take one or two of those opportunities then we are in the game."