New Zealand 36 England 13: Whitewash leaves Lancaster to rue troubled fixture congestion

England's Mana Tulagi shows his disappointment after his team's defeat to New Zealand.
England's Mana Tulagi shows his disappointment after his team's defeat to New Zealand.
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Stuart Lancaster insists the disruptive fixture congestion that undermined England’s quest for a maiden series victory in New Zealand must never be repeated.

Prolific wing Julian Savea led the rout as the All Blacks romped to a 3-0 whitewash in Saturday’s final Test by posting a 36-13 victory at the Waikato Stadium.

It was an inglorious conclusion to a series that began with England having to prepare for the opening Test without their Premiership finalists from Northampton and Saracens.

Eden Park offered the best platform to claim a prized All Blacks scalp and while Lancaster was keen not to retreat behind excuses, rugby’s ultimate challenge had clearly been turned into mission impossible.

“To not have your first choice team available was obviously a huge challenge for the first Test and it had a subsequent knock-on effect on selection,” he said.

“We can all sit here and talk about changes to the side but everyone in the know knows why those changes were made.

“This scheduling issue has to be sorted and can’t be repeated. It is unfair on the players.”

England’s coaches will spend much of the summer ruminating on an abysmally error-ridden first-half in Hamilton that gifted New Zealand victory.

All Blacks wing Cory Jane revealed that he felt some of the tourists were already thinking of their summer holidays as Savea and Aaron Smith plundered two tries each.

Lancaster denies Jane’s claim, insisting England were emotionally ready for the climax to the series, but admits memories of the Hamilton ordeal will linger over the coming weeks.

He also vowed the crushing end to England’s tour will motivate his players to ensure they never allow it to happen again.

A series that had been competitive across the first two Tests ended in a mauling that gave the All Blacks a 3-0 whitewash and a record-equalling 17th successive victory.

The error-ridden first half was possibly the worst of Lancaster’s reign and England must wait four months before they can make amends with New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham launching their autumn schedule.

“We were beaten by a better team and this series has been challenging,” said Lancaster.

“If anything, this defeat should fire a steely determination never to let it happen again.

“I’d be very surprised if there are any players who believe the loss has dented their self-belief to a point where they don’t believe they can achieve. I’ll ensure the players use it as strong motivation rather than allowing to it develop into a negative mindset.”

Once the anguish over the climax to the series subsides, Lancaster will be able to draw pride from England’s ability to challenge the All Blacks in the harshest of rugby environments.

Yet he will have returned home none the wiser over who should fill certain positions, the midfield and wings being the areas of most pressing concern.

Among those to impress were Rob Webber, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan and Marland Yarde. Heading in the opposite direction are Jonny May and Chris Ashton and Billy Twelvetrees.

“We have definitely learnt a lot about the players and we have made some good progress throughout the course of the season,” said Lancaster. “What’s happened here does not deviate from the overall objective of getting team ready for 2015.

“I wouldn’t say some players have had their last chance, but certainly we’ve learnt who can consistently deliver at this level.

“Going through the backs, there’s probably more decisions still to be made, there’s no doubt about it.

“Centre-wise we had a consistent partnership in Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees during the Six Nations and they played well.

“But it was a difficult task for Billy Twelvetrees to play in the second Test having been out for so long through injury. Brad Barritt, I thought, was excellent in that Crusaders game so he will come back in the equation.

“But I would still suggest wing is the position really where there’s not many (All Blacks wing) Julian Saveas running round.”

Captain Chris Robshaw enjoyed a solid series, but Lancaster accepts openside is one of the areas where competition is at its weakest.

Kvesic performed well against the Crusaders on Tuesday with Lancaster highlighting the turnovers he produced, a shortcoming in Robshaw’s game that needs addressing.

New Zealand: Smith, Jane, Fekitoa, Nonu, Savea, Cruden, A Smith; Woodcock, Coles, Franks, Retallick, Whitelock, Kaino, McCaw (capt), Read. Replacements: Mealamu, Crockett, Faumuina, Tuipulotu, Messam, Perenara, Barrett, Crotty.

England: Brown, Ashton, Tuilagi, Eastmond, Yarde, Burns, Youngs; Marler, Hartley, Wilson, Lawes, Launchbury, Wood, Robshaw (capt), Vunipola. Replacements: Webber, Mullan, Brookes, Attwood, Morgan, Dickson, Cipriani, Burrell.