New Zealand star Dan Carter has launched a withering assesment of English rugby as the two nations prepare to meet at Twickenham on Saturday.
The fly-half, widely regarded as the finest playmaker in world rugby, is surprised at the lack of progress made by England since they won the World Cup in 2003.
Carter – who plans to add to their woes by returning from injury to heap more misery on Stuart Lancaster’s side on Saturday – is amazed that a country that taught the mighty All Blacks a lesson nine years ago have failed to kick on.
Since losing 15-13 in Wellington nine years ago to Sir Clive Woodward’s team the All Blacks have won all nine meetings between the rivals.
England’s appearance in the 2007 final fails to mask their regression into an average team incapable of challenging the powerhouse trio from the southern hemisphere. Defeat to the world champions at Twickenham on Saturday would complete an inglorious autumn after losses against Australia and South Africa.
It is a decline that Carter, who expects to win his battle with an Achilles/calf injury and start, finds curious. He said: “Yes, I’m surprised England haven’t done more since 2003. They’ve shown the strength of their side only in patches since then.
“Maybe consistency is what’s been lacking. They’ve got the players, so talent’s not an issue. They can beat any side on their day.
“It was in 2003 that I got the All Black jersey for the first time, though unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to get on.
“England were in their prime and had a pretty successful year. They taught us a lesson at home.
“We have real pride in not losing at home and they took it to us that night.”
While England failed to seize the moment after their World Cup triumph and descended into freefall, the All Blacks have plotted a different course.
Unbeaten since August last year, their only blemish in 20 Tests has been October’s 18-18 draw with Australia and they have since swept aside Scotland, Italy and Wales on their annual romp through Europe. Added to the statistics is the universal consensus that they are playing rugby that is untouchable.
Carter revealed that lifting the Webb Ellis trophy last autumn has inspired even higher standards.
“It’s a very new squad so it doesn’t feel like there’s any less pressure playing for the All Blacks now that we’ve won a World Cup,” he said.
England’s under-fire captain Chris Robshaw found Carter’s team-mates equally unsympathetic as they indicated their disapproval of his decision making.
Robshaw has been heavily criticised for directing Owen Farrell to kick for goal when England trailed 16-12 to South Africa with two minutes remaining last Saturday.
New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster showed his disdain for the decision when asked how he would react if an All Blacks’ captain made the same call.
Foster pointed an imaginary gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Nevertheless, he refuses to underestimate their challenge at Twickenham.
“It’s a dangerous time to be playing England,” said Foster.