Stuart Lancaster has reacted to the criticism that has engulfed England midway through a disappointing autumn by admitting “we’d better get used to it”.
The Red Rose have experienced their worst sequence of results for eight years after defeats to New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham left them reflecting on their fourth and fifth successive losses.
Only 10 games remain before next year’s home World Cup, leaving precious little time to address their declining self-belief, brainless decision-making and the collapse in form of half-backs Danny Care and Owen Farrell.
A defiant Lancaster views the fallout that has greeted the 31-28 setback against the Springboks as a taster of the forensic scrutiny England will face when they stage their bid to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
“We’re going to have pressure on us when the World Cup comes around, irrespective of the results leading up to it,” said Lancaster.
“That’s what comes with the expectation of being the home nation, so we better get used to it. And so had I.
“The criticism is hard to take. It’s not nice and it’s not taken lightly. It’s not very easy to tune out from. And it hurts. It hurts when you lose as England – and it should do.
“It hurts me personally because I’m responsible for the team and it hurts the players because the players care about the team.
“No-one accepts it as part of the job because you don’t want it to happen, but when it does come you’ve just got to accept it for what it is.
“More importantly, you have to make sure that you and all the other guys keep some perspective about what you’re trying to do because it’s when the pressure starts to affect the team internally that the problems begin.
“My sense is that we’re disappointed with ourselves, but we have to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”
England battled back from a 10-0 deficit against South Africa to draw level at 20-20 in the second half, only to then throw away a strong position against a southern hemisphere superpower for the second time in eight days.
All five losses have come against the Springboks or All Blacks and Lancaster insists his team has always been competitive against the sport’s two dominant forces.
“I was aware when taking the job that there would be expectation round the team. It’s easy to say you’ve not won any of your last five games, but the opposition has been pretty good and three of the defeats were in New Zealand,” added Lancaster.
“We’ve not been smashed by any of them. I’ve seen South Africa get beaten by 30 points in the summer, I’ve seen South Africa beat Australia by 30 points, I’ve seen New Zealand put 50 points on Australia.
“Now we’ve come up short and we’re not happy about that, but we’ve not been smashed.”
Lancaster is ready to make changes for Saturday’s showdown with big-hitting Samoa with the half-back combination of Care and Farrell in the most urgent need of attention.
Care’s form has deserted him since the RBS 6 Nations and he is set to be replaced by Ben Youngs while Farrell, who has started just two matches for Saracens this season due to injury, is playing well below his best.
George Ford of Bath will come in at fly-half but rather than dropping Farrell, Lancaster is likely to switch him to inside centre.
It is a decision that will infuriate those who have called for Farrell to be dropped on account of his form and the suspicion he is not 100 per cent fit.
But Lancaster’s hand is forced to some extent by injury to other key players.
Kyle Eastmond has concussion and will be unable to train this week, while Billy Twelvetrees has an ankle problem.
“It does affect your selection and it will complicate it,” added Lancaster.
“Farrell is an option at 12, as well as Twelvetrees.
“We’ll see how training goes on Tuesday.”