England vs. New Zealand: 6 Things We Learned

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Kieran Read of New Zealand pushes forward during the QBE International match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on November 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Phil Walter/Getty Images

Another gripping contest between England and New Zealand two looked as though it could go the home side's way for a while on Saturday afternoon. But New Zealand didn't panic when they went behind and sorted their discipline out at the breakdown to prevail by a 30-22 margin.

There is a lot for England to take heart from, though. Here are six things we learned.

Kieran Read should be world player of the year

Read took 20 minutes of the first half to exhibit his array of skills. He had the strength to stay in play and the gossamer-fine handling skills to find Julian Savea with a deft flip of the wrist for New Zealand’s first try.

Then he located himself in his customary wide channel to take a pass and slither outside Ben Foden to glide home for a try of his own.

He blotted his copy book in the first 40 minutes by infringing at a ruck and getting a yellow card, but his was the first misdemeanor following a final warning to the whole team for one too many crimes at the breakdown. We can forgive him that. There has been no finer player this year in any position.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Courtney Lawes of England wins the ball during the QBE Autumn International match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on November 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Tom Shaw/Getty Images

A strong set piece can keep you in any game

However incisive and dangerous the All Blacks proved to be in the early stages, England showed that by gaining the upper hand in scrum and lineout they could work their way back in to contention.

Dylan Hartley was keen-eyed with his throwing as we have seen him in a white short, and Courtney Lawes was dominant in the air, which formed the bedrock for England’s maul that should have been rewarded with their first try. Eventually, their ability to make a mess of the All Black scrum helped them to a try and a penalty in the first half.

Sadly for England, when their lineout began to wobble after Tom Youngs’ introduction at hooker, New Zealand regained the lead. Losing such a profitable source of possession at such a key time in the contest arguably decided this game.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Billy Twelvetrees of England is tackled during the QBE Autumn International match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium on November 16, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Tom Shaw/Getty Images

England lack midfield magic

The combination of Billy Twelvetrees and Joel Tomkins was given three chances to prove they could form a dangerous, creative partnership in England’s back line and, on the evidence of these autumn matches, they failed.

Stuart Lancaster has a major headache here. Twelvetrees as an individual had a very good game against New Zealand, but Joel Tomkins, frankly, looked out of his depth, so the big issue is at No. 13.

England will be without Manu Tuilagi for the Six Nations as well. Can Luther Burrell move out there to prove the answer or does someone else come into the mix?

 

This is not the greatest All Black team ever

Perhaps it is the most resilient though. They have been proved vulnerable at the scrum and they are also susceptible to shipping points when put under pressure by a side playing at a high tempo.

France did it last week and England did it in periods at Twickenham. Each time, New Zealand found a way to wrestle control of the game back.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Ben Morgan of England breaks clear to score a try during the QBE International match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 9, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

England’s bench is a mixed bag

It seems a shame that an international player can’t last an hour, but at least when Billy Vunipola was taken off England had a replacement just as strong at busting the gain line.

Ben Morgan may have the hump at being relegated from the starting lineup, but his value as an impact strike runner off the bench has risen exponentially in this autumn series. He was excellent against New Zealand.

On the other end of the scale, Tom Youngs replaced Dylan Hartley and England’s lineout went to pieces. Three from his first lineout throws ended up in All Black hands and one of them resulted in a try a few phases later.

Toby Flood lacks the presence of Owen Farrell and elsewhere in the back line, there really is a lack of depth. When the changes started to happen, England lost their advantage.

 

The Six Nations is England’s to lose

Wales might have wiped the floor with them in the finale to the 2013 tournament, but on the evidence of the autumn, England should have too much for them on their own patch.

They have to go to Paris which will be a major test, but if they can recreate the intensity they showed for long spells against the All Blacks they can beat France. If they are going to kick on, a Grand Slam must be their No. 1 objective.