Stand-in England skipper Courtney Lawes has played down his team’s latest defeat, suggesting there were a lot of positives in their 10-29 loss to Ireland in Dublin.
The English lost out five-one on the try count against a sluggish Irish XV whose first-choice picks were getting their first run of the Summer Nations Series.
In contrast, three of England’s XV were getting their third successive starts this month and eight more were getting their second start.
That suggested they should be a step further down the road than Ireland in being match sharp for the finals in France, but they weren’t – a shortcoming exacerbated by them suffering a third red card in four games.
Lawes was named in an unchanged back row of Ben Earl and Billy Vunipola, but that combination came unstuck with the dismissal of Vunipola, initially via a 53rd-minute yellow card.
That sanction was soon upgraded to red by the TMO bunker and England didn’t have the scramble defence to shut the door, losing that 27-minute period of the match a man down by three tries to one – all three tries scored by wingers who had run-ins in space thanks to sweet long looping passes that exploited the space out wide.
England were only 3-7 behind for the majority of the opening half but rather than have the blueprint to go at a second-gear Ireland and pose some difficult questions, they didn’t have the attacking blueprint to press for the lead. Lawes though insisted there were positives… without specifically naming them.
“It’s very disappointing,” he began, sitting alongside Steve Borthwick following a loss that was the fifth L for England in their eight outings under their new head coach.
“The thing is if we just get certain things right in our game it’s very different, it’s a very different game and they are all things that we can control but we have to be better at controlling them.
“There is a lot of positives which is great. If we tidy up a couple of areas we will be a much different team and we have proved we can hang with the best as long as we get them right. It doesn’t make it any less disappointing that we didn’t get it right today.”
If his “lots of positives” verdict sounded sketchy, what was more encouraging was his promise that England won’t give up searching for improvements with the start of their Rugby World Cup campaign now less than three weeks away.
“We won’t give up, we will relentlessly pursue the betterment of our team. That’s all we can do.”
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