It was a series whitewash, so the negatives will always outweigh the positives overall, but here’s our take on some (note: not all) of the England players that either enhanced their reputation, or did the opposite, on the tour to New Zealand.
Probably the biggest winner of the tour from an England perspective. The lineout was near flawless with him at the helm – it’s no coincidence that it faltered in the final test when he was out. A senior figure in the squad and one of Lancaster’s key men in the build up to 2015.
Like Parling, a key part of the success of the lineout in the first two tests. He’ll have a bit of a fight on his hands to oust Hartley and Youngs from the matchday squad jerseys, but his consistently accurate throwing in New Zealand, coupled with some strong carrying, has set him in good stead.
Two tries on tour is a good return for a man who needed to show that he was worth persevering with. They were good finishes, too, showing plenty of power on both occasions and he also handled well when he found himself in the midfield every now and then. Needs to shore up his defence, though.
Perhaps a slightly controversial one this, but Cipriani’s return to the England fold has almost certainly been a success. He didn’t get that much game time in the tests but showed some nice touches when he did get on, and he bossed the first half of the game against the Crusaders. That, added to the lack of any off-field misdemeanours, is a win.
The performances of Brookes seem to have gone under the radar somewhat. Clearly a man held of in high regard by Graham Rowntree, given his ascension to the test squad even with Henry Thomas fit, Brookes showed admirable strength at the scrum and stood out with a couple of powerful bursts with ball in hand. Will add much needed competition to the tighthead position.
He has had his detractors in the past, but even they have to admit he’s playing the best rugby of his career right now. The ability to cover all three back row positions will make him an important member of the World Cup squad – his performance in the first test allayed all doubts that he can’t make it at the top level against the best.
Tough to judge a player on one game alone, but it was a bit of a shocker from Twelvetrees in the second test. It was a game he had to grab by the scruff of the neck and finally confirm himself as England’s no.1 choice at 12, but he simply didn’t do it. Poor tackles an inaccurate offloads framed an error-strewn performance.
A caveat here – Brown is being judged against the standards he set in the Six Nations. And why not? We know what he is capable of, and he simply couldn’t reproduce it on this tour. His positioning left something to be desired at times, and he just seemed to lack a half a yard of pace to beat the first man as he did before.
Same caveat applies here as it did above for Brown. His offload in the final test was superb, but aside from that he didn’t seem to be on the shoulder of the ball carrier as much as usual, and he even fell off a couple of tackles he’d expect to be making. Undoubtedly fatigued after a long season, he’ll return next year fresher and stronger to challenge Parling and Lawes again.
His performances on this tour were far from terrible, but he loses out primarily due to coming off a comfortable second best to Rob Webber. His lineout throwing was less accurate, and there were a couple of poor dropped balls. Won’t affect his status as no.1 hooker, though.
Woeful in the last test but impressive in the first, it’s tough to know exactly how to judge Eastmond. Why did there seem to be such issues with defensive organisation in the last test with the same combinations that played in the first? Either way, he bombed in that third game badly enough to be taken off at half time. Not the end of his international road, but a definite speed bump.
A superb domestic season, yes, but is this the end of Ashton’s international career? He wasn’t helped by the disorganisation inside him, but to miss five of his eight attempted tackles in the third test is simply not good enough, even up against a freak of nature like Julien Savea. Has been found wanting defensively one too many times now at this level.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images