New Zealand v England second test: 5 things we learned


1. Influence waning

The Tuilagi to the wing experiment was by no means a disaster – he was not caught out defensively as many predicted he would be – but the simple fact is that he is England’s best attacking weapon, and his influence was hugely diminished whilst he was out on the flank. He caused New Zealand such problems in the first test, and yet for the first half hour of the game in Dunedin he touched the ball no more than twice, usually when the space had been gobbled up by men inside him. He has better pace than people realise but is not an out-and-out speedster – had the ball bobbled to Jonny May or Anthony Watson just before half time, England would have gone into the break 17-3 ahead. It was an experiment that had the potential to work, but needed to include more moves to get him on the ball more. For now, let’s leave the wingers on the wing and bring Tuilagi back into the centre where he can get involved in the action more.

2. Decision time

Centre seems to have been a position that has caused the England coache headaches since the 2003 World Cup win. It is no different these days, although the issue is at least a positive one rather than merely a dearth of options. Manu Tuilagi’s name should be engraved into the 13 shirt between now and the 2015 World Cup, and the mission now is to find who his best partner is. Eastmond worked well inside him – but we have yet to see both Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell play with him, so it is a shame only one game is left on this tour. Twelvetrees was far from his best in the second test, and time is quickly running out for him to nail down the shirt – he’s had enough opportunities – but he does deserve a chance to play with Tuilagi this weekend, as it’s a combination we’re yet to see. It surely has to be a case, though, of last chance saloon now – Eastmond has shown he can perform there and with Burrell also knocking on the door, not to mention Brad Barritt who showed some nice touches in attack against the Crusaders, Twelvetrees simply has to perform. With little over a year until the World Cup, combinations need to be inked in and partnerships forged.

3. A champion lesson

There are many reasons why New Zealand are the best team in the world, but foremost amongst them is that they take their chances when they arise. In a brutal lesson in how to be clinical, the All Blacks stepped it up several notches in a 25 minute period at the beginning of the second half and took the game out of England’s hands – even a courageous late fightback wasn’t enough to snatch the game from Kiwi paws. It is well publicised that New Zealand often end the game having enjoyed less possession, and kick the ball more than most teams, trusting their defence. They have the confidence that when a chance is presented to them, more often than not they will take it – this is why it was so surprising to see them fumble so much ball in the first test in promising situations. It happened again in the first half last weekend, but in that period after half time they were incisive, accurate and clinical – three things England need to work hard at improving.

4. Plenty still to play for

The series may be over but this weekend’s third test is far from a dead rubber. Nobody expected England to come away with a series win, and to win a game was seen as the best they could hope for – although even that was seen as a long shot by many. So to have come away from the first two tests with a points difference of just minus six, means England can take huge hope into the final test this weekend. A win on New Zealand soil would really announce that they are amongst the top sides in the world. There are also personal battles to relish, with a couple of front line players missing – depending on selection Malakai Fekitoa could line-up opposite Manu Tuilagi, a duel that will be felt far beyond the confines of the stadium. So although the series is already decided, expect this game to be every bit as intense as the two that came before it.

5. Strength in depth

This isn’t strictly related to just the second test, because if you add in the performance of the midweek team this morning against the Crusaders, it would appear that England have more depth in their ranks than for some time. Several of the ‘dirt-trackers’, as midweek players are traditionally known, put in stirling performances this morning to enhance their reputations in the national set-up. Dave Attwood and Ed Slater are the amongst the unluckiest men in world rugby in selection terms, given their talent and the list of names ahead of them in the pecking order, while James Haskell and Matt Kvesic also proved there is life in the back-row battle yet. Lee Dickson is putting pressure on Youngs and Care for the test squad, while Danny Cipriani showed a maturity that must now prove he can be an asset to the squad heading into 2015. Out wide, Ben Foden, Anthony Watson and Alex Goode all showed a clinical nature when chances were presented to them – something that hasn’t always been the case this tour, and will put pressure on the incumbents in the test side. In short, when you add in the injured that have to return and those that have done so well in the two tests so far, you have a pretty healthy-looking future for England.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

31 thoughts on “New Zealand v England second test: 5 things we learned

  1. I can certainly agree Manu would be better placed in mid field. This mornings game however has no real bearing on anything. They wore Crusaders jerseys, they were playing at home, but about 11 of the 15 that started play for Cantebury, not the Crusaders. The individual games of Ellis, Todd and Mcnichol tell a different tale and while you cannot say if the entire Crusader team was there what the scoreline would have been, I think England should have destroyed them, I mean by 50 or more.

    The turnovers should not have been so easy for the Saders, they got flummoxed by the Eng line coming up so fast, and in the second when Ellis came on, the dynamics changed and England were pretty lucky to get the last try. Hienz was shocking. Just terrible.

    That is not to say Eng didnt play well, it was a district side they were playing and considering that the group of players selected for England represent the top 34 England has to offer i think it wasn’t that great a win. I dare say if the Crusaders didn’t have so many AB’s it would have been much much closer.

    This weekend, I think the AB’s will look to get that 25 mins of death up to the 50 or 60 minute mark. They have got better in leaps and bounds since the first test while Eng have got marginally worse.

    That said, Eng are looking very very tasty for the WC next year but at the moment, unless they can up their physicality and tempo and stop kicking to arguably the best back three in world rugby at the moment, they are going to get a hiding. Last weekend they lost an entire match in 28 minutes. I am looking forward to what SL can pull out of the hat this weekend!!

    1. Think you over-exaggerate a bit here Dan.

      13 of the Crusaders squad today were starting or on the bench for their win over the Force and 14 of today’s squad were starting or on the bench for the Crusaders side that beat the Highlanders.

      There was a lot of chat before the game about how this Crusaders side would cause England problems

      This was a good win for England’s second/third choice team

  2. The group touring are the top 46 in England, and that’s not including rested or injured players, such as Corbs, Youngs, Cole, Croft, Wade, Nowell and Ford, all of whom would have almost certainly have toured in different circumstances.

    1. Top 47 – you forgot Mako Vunipola! What else did the Romans do for us? Personally think you’re being rather one eyed on these points. Bit disappointing to read these comments. The result in the last test will tell us a huge amount about both teams. Am looking forward to it. ABs worthy series winners, but we’re closing the gap, which you might remember from 3 years ago was huge.

  3. You can debate the strength of the opposition all you like but this tour has demonstrated that England do have good depth these days.

    SL should use empirical evidence to choose his centres. 1st Test: Eastmond/Tuilagi good. 2nd Test: 12T/Burrell poor.
    The latter pair had some good games in the 6N but playing against Scotland or Italy is not the same as NZ. Eastmond was brilliant during England’s tour of Argentina and good in the 1st test so he should start alongside Tuilagi.

    I’d love to see Cipriani at 10 as he can create more than any other English fly-half.

    Phil Vickery’s column was interesting. He said England have to find a higher level of intensity and maintain it for 80 minutes. He said that intensity came from within the individual and you could bring others up to your level.

    England can beat NZ – they just have to actuallygo out and do it.

    1. But was Eastmond better because he was playing alongside Tuilagi? Bit simplistic to annoint him on the basis of one game with the ones. However I’m not saying he isn’t the answer, just that 36 should have a game alongside tuilagi. If that doesn’t work try the next combo.

      1. Would definitely agree that we need to see 12T and Tuilagi, but also Burrell and Tuilagi playing together. Of course the combo which beat NZ last time was Barritt and Tuilagi!…………… I’m just saying!!

  4. Posted this elsewhere, but I think it’s relevant to the ongoing debate.

    I know stats aren’t everything, but I still want to bring a few up.

    1st test required England to make just 82 tackles. Eastmond touched the ball 12 times, and was 4/1 in tackles.

    2nd test required England to make 136 tackles. Twelvetrees handled the ball 26 times, and was 9/3 in tackles in a far harsher (more scrambling) environment.

    In the 1st test, Burns took on almost all of the distribution responsibility, with 26 passes to Eastmonds 7. In the 2nd test Farrell passed 25 times, and Twelvetrees passed 18 times.

    In the same number of runs overall for England in both tests, Tuilagi ran the ball 14 times in the first test, Burrell ran it only 6 times (only 10 touches in total) in the 2nd.

    So when I say that 36 was having to play 10 (attack and defence), 12 (attack and defence), and 13 (mostly defence, but not much was happening in attack). He really was. Eastmond had the opportunity to look good in a far kinder environment.

    Now it may be that Eastmond is the better option, I certainly think he has what it takes (love his passing ability), but for me the amount of work, and workload, that 36 carries, means I want to see what he can do when he only has to play 12, and dedicate all his efforts there. Given the mess at Glaws this season, and the fact that in many ways he’s had a similar time there (playing 10, 12 and covering May in defence at 13), I’m happy to see him go again.

    1. That’s some very interesting analysis. But how many more chances does he get? I would like to see him played with Manu in the 3rd test, but if he doesn’t deliver then England need to look elsewhere.

      That’s not something that should only be applied to 36 either. There’s enough competition for places that no-one’s position should be considered safe.

    2. They are some really interesting stats! Pretty much back upped what I’ve been trying to say on here all week with some stats – so thanks!

      I’d definitely start Twelvetrees/Tuilagi in the centre for this test. I want to see the combo tried together. Hopefully they will go well and cement their place together.

      With a bit of luck with injuries, I’m hoping to see what I think is our best back line run out together in the AIs:
      Care, Farrell, Yarde, Twelvetrees, Tuilagi, Wade, Brown

    3. DanD – your arguments have swayed me slightly when it comes to 12T and I now agree that he should get the chance to show what he can do with Tuilagi outside him. Perhaps Eastmond on the bench as he can cover a few areas

      However, one question I have is, if between them 12T and Farrell passed the ball 43 times, why did it only end up with Burrell on 10 of those occasions?

      Eastmond and Burns between them passed the ball 33 times, 10 less and yet Tuilagi ended up with it 17 times

      He didn’t have a good game but we saw what Burrell could do in the first few mins when he ran over Cruden – and the threat was evident for England’s first try when Cruden was fixed by the threat of Burrell and McCaw by Care to open up the hole for Yarde. Yet Burrell only received the ball a further 9 times in the match.

      I wonder how much England’s attacking was dragged out of shape by having Tuilagi out on the wing and trying to bring him into the match as much as possible.

      The more I think about it, the more the decision to play Tuilagi on the wing strikes me as bonkers. Not only did we lose his strength at 13 (and looking at the evidence, Conrad Smith does not like playing opposite him) but we lost having a proper finisher on the wing.

      Still, lesson learnt and never to be repeated I hope. And as someone else mentioned, at least we found out it didn’t work against the top team in the world rather than it being tried and working against a team like Italy and thereby assuming it would work against everyone else.

    4. Very interesting stats.

      We have seen/read/heard plenty about that extra 1% of magic that some of the individual All Blacks possess, and it is this ability that keeps them ahead of the other teams.

      When I look at Twelvetrees and Eastmond I see two very similar players, in terms of what they can do at 12, but really see Eastmond as having that little extra bit of “magic” that can make a difference.

      I would also say the same for Burrell and Tuilagi.

      Burrell and Twelvetrees are not poor international players by any means, and their partnership in the 6 Nations was really very good. I just think that Eastmond and Tuilagi have that little bit extra “magic”.

      Burns – who will surely play – is a different player to Farrell, so it is entirely plausible that we’ll see Twelvetrees with less work to do this week, in between him and Tuilagi, and I wouldn’t be disappointed with this selection.

      My instinct though, stays with Eastmond at 12.

    5. I would start 12T and Tuilagi together for the 3rd test, but I would put Eastmond on the bench. He can cover centre, wing and full back. Also hoping that Cipriani starts at 10, as he looked really sharp yesterday.

    6. That’s some pretty good analysis you’ve made there highlighting the workload on Twelvetree’s shoulders.
      I stand by the man and think he should get the chance to see what he can do inside Tuilagi, who is hands down our best 13. When the players immediately inside and outside of you have poor games, it’s hard to have a stormer yourself when you’re trying to force things to make up for their mistakes.
      The backline for test 3 is most likely going to have Burns, Twelvetrees and Tuilagi at 10, 12 and 13. If the former and latter play as well as they did in Eden park, Twelvetrees will have to perform to keep his place.

  5. Straying off the “Central” issue for a moment, I would suggest that the tour has really provided some additional plusses, irrespective of what happens on Saturday. There are some players who have really benefitted and some who have perhaps not – and not necessarily through any fault of their own;

    Cipriani, Haskell, Eastmond, Burns, Webber, Brookes, Sinkler, May, Ashton, Corbisiero

    Thomas, Ward, Myler, Trinder, Johnson, Cole, Ford, T Youngs

    Different reasons for many, and the positives may be clear in the longer term, but we may see slight shifts in the “pecking order” of various positions as a result of this tour.

    Pennell – one could argue that it is both Positive (England debut, and played decently in two short showings) and Negative (Brown, Foden, Goode and Watson all having good tours).

    I think the depth of Tight Head has increased (Q – does “depth” increase???), whilst Loose Head has kind of stayed the same, with the two backups on tour not really showing enough to suggest they should be ahead of the two absentees.

    Hooker – would anyone pick Tom Youngs ahead of Webber now?

    Fly Half – Farrell/Ford/Myler now doesn’t necessarily look like the top three.

    Yarde/May/Ashton – Ashton has shown that he may be back to his “old” self, and (preparing for some disagreement with this) May has shown that he can be effective at this level.

    1. Agree with this. The tour has highlighted the depth available to England, and perhaps the fiasco of the first test has been a blessing, as quite a few players have managed to perform when they may not have been given the opportunity beforehand.

      I’m looking forward to the new season. If Burns plays like he did in the first test for Leicester, I think he will be knocking on the door. Ford was fantastic in some games for Bath, but showed a lack of game management towards the latter stages of the season, so I don’t think he has a spot nailed down just yet.

      I’m also interested to see how Yarde gets on at Quins. If he can get a good understanding with Brown, that could help him secure a place in the team (similar to the Foden/Ashton partnership)

      All in all, a whole load of options for Lancaster & co to discuss moving into the AI’s

      1. How is Corbs a positive? His game against Sarries see him get beaten by Stevens in the scrum. And Mullan, Waller and Catt have all had good tours.

        How is Ward a negative? He’s 29 and wasn’t on the radar 12 months ago. I don’t think any degree of England play can be seen as negative for him :).

        Trinder was never really anything more than 2nd/3rd choice 13, and I don’t think that’s changed. Burrell hasn’t added to his stock.

        And for me, if anything Cole would be positive. Yes we have some other good scrummagers, but we sorely miss his breakdown work, and none of the other tightheads have shown anything close.

        1. Dan, None of the Looseheads have shown they are better than Corbisiero.

          Ward came out as first choice at Harlequins, and many people’s bet/choice for a match day position. Ward has clearly edged ahead of him in the England hierarchy, and he wasn’t great when he came on yesterday.

          So, being selected to tour, as you sagely imply is definitely a positive, but that wasn’t my point.

          Trinder was a very real starting possibility back in the autumn, so like Ward in a very congested position (Devoto, Joseph, Allen all fringe challengers) can be pleased with the fact that he toured, but has not really enhanced his cause.

          Cole is good in the loose, but I am not sure that he is the first pick at 3 anymore.

          1. Whilst Marler hasn’t put himself over and above Corbs, I would say he has closed the gap far more than anyone has on Dan Cole. Cole for me is still miles ahead of Wilson. He hits rucks like a back row players in the loose, and is also really strong at jackling. I don’t think Wilson can lay claim to that.

            Marler has been brilliant all season. For Corbs to come back in, he needs to start next season really well, or SL won’t drop Marler – he’s played too well for that.

            On Trinder, I don’t think he was ever that close to starting was he? Tomkins obviously played, and then Burrell was next choice. Obviously there is Tuilagi and Barritt ahead of him as well. I don’t think Trinder has moved in the pecking order at all – so hardly negative for him.

            1. The only downside with Cole (and its quite a big one) is that his scrummaging wasn’t up to scratch before his time off. There was much talk of starting Wilson to shore up the scrum

              It therefore becomes a question of what you want your props to do. First and foremost, I want them to scrum and if they are great at nicking ball, well that’s a nice bonus.

              Unless Cole comes back and shows that his technique has improved and that under the new laws he can be a force in the scrum then I think Wilson remains slightly ahead of him.

              2 good options to have though. I also think Thomas isn’t as mediocre as he’s made out to be and Sinckler and Brookes are great prospects – so at least we are looking more stable at tighthead

              1. I agree that Cole had a couple bad days at the scrum – but I still think he is ahead of Wilson be quite some distance. Cole is still a brilliant scrummager. Can we also remember his neck injury was quite long standing or there is a good chance that was affecting him?

    2. Re the Youngs point, I would say he still the most explosive option in the loose BUT has to be able to the day job too. I think for that reason SL will still see him as a bench option in the same way that Mako is usually on the bench for either Corbs or Marler but when all three are fit Marler drops out completely.

  6. I just saw on Facebook that Bomber has confirmed that Burns will play at stand off and Cipriani will be on the bench. I’m happy with that – I’m a huge supporter of Farrell but I like the Idea of Burns and Cips again. Thats all I managed to get as it was a dodgey source (Facebook). I would like to see Eastmond and Tuilagi again with Ashton back at 14. he needs to stop that stupid slash though. It’s fine when he breaks a record or runs 90 metres but thats it. I’m Sarries through and through and he is simply amazing on the right wing but people wont stop hating until he loses the splash. Same with Farrell and the silly fingre lock thing.

  7. I think you misunderstand the dislike for Farrell. The finger lock he does is a redeeming feature in my eyes, it’s done in support of a charity to raise awareness, my “dislike” is simply that I don’t think he’s the best option we have, and we should have perhaps have been investing resources and game time in other players.

    Ashton is a bit different, the splash is purely egotistical, and to do it when he scores a meaningless try and the end of a loss is just annoying.

  8. I think we may have missed the point. I feel the real reason to play MT on the wing was to stop Savea. We missed MT’s tackling in the centre and his line breaks through the middle. But I thought defensively he did ok.

    So let me threw this one out 3rd test we go 12T/MT and whack KE on the wing, we switch MT/KE throughout the game giving the ABs something to think. MT plays 13 on our ball, and 14 on theirs?

    1. I really don’t think that is anywhere near the case. Tuilagi, whilst being big, is actually not a great defender. His gets stuck on his heels quite often, and can misjudge tackles as he goes for the big hit.

      It really makes no sense to me that Tuilagi would be put anywhere for his defensive qualities.

      I can’t why we would put Eastmond on the wing during our own ball? We have wingers that will be much better off our own ball than Eastmond. Yes Eastmond has quite feet and could cover wing – but his main attributes are suited to playing in the centre. He distributes well and uses his feet to fix defenders and put people in holes. Defending the 13 channel is also a really tough job – Eastmond can not do that.

    2. I like the idea of that, but it’s probably something that takes a couple of seasons to really get sorted. The Smith try for NZ came from Tuilagi leaving his wing when England were in possession, and no back being out wide to cover for him.

      At international level, a massive % of the tries scored come from simple mismatches, continually swapping players to different positions greatly increases the chance of something like that happening.

  9. Interesting stats but for me the fundamental point is he hasn’t performed the role he was there for.

    I think now is the time to establish partnerships in readiness for RWC and don’t think that 36 has shown enough to be the undisputed 12, therefore give the opportunity to eastmond or burrell to stake a claim. Eastmond for me has the distribution and running threat to become a real asset to the side.

    1. Some may say it’s tricky to play your own role when you’re expending so much energy on other peoples.

  10. Reading the above posts/views, makes feel great that for the first time English critics/fans actually have something to argue about in just about every position on the park. I don’t think that we could have had this much strength in depth 12-18 months before we won the world cup in Australia. And, to be honest if it was not for golden bollocks JW we would not have won it.
    Now, however we have some number 10’s that could take the field and in their own way really put pressure on defending teams. I really want to see Burns do well today (After his last season he was dire, and has to pull a good shift this morning, and for the Tigers in September or i think he will be out), but, we have Ford to come through, and this coming season will really see if he can force his way into the 10 shirt, Cips is really a great 10, and I want to see him for at least 20 mins this morning.
    I love this “centre” issue we are having….that we have so many is great
    Laws will tear NZ apart this morning, His arms look like they will spoil everything black, if he controls his emotions he will be a headache.
    Robshaw reminds me Hill when he played for England as the man who does so much and gets little credit, it is still a disgrace he did not make the Lions tour
    Yarde is brilliant, my son who fancies himself as a prop (aged 13), now wants to support Quinns and become a winger like Yarde!……he will do well there and today secure his place in the England team
    I worry about Brown, as I think he is not fit, and this may be one game to many, and should not play, he needs to get his hamstring/leg? fit again, as he lost his sharpness that to me was evident in that last game, I stick Foden/Goode in.
    Getting back to the front row….we now have props that will tear their opposite number apart, and then have equally good ones to come on, if any get injured there are more on the shelf. Youngs has to sort out his throwing, or Hartley will always be first choice, and Ward is getting better by the day
    England to win by 7 …..or we will get hammered!

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