Close as they’ve come to toppling the All Blacks in two Tests, England admit they’re still not yet worthy of dining at world rugby’s top table.
The tourists once again pushed the world champions to the limit in a 28-27 loss at Dunedin on Saturday to follow a 20-15 defeat in Auckland last week.
While the second Test scoreline was closer, it flattered England who scored two late tries.
However, they were still highly competitive, dominating the opening half hour before getting blown away when New Zealand increased the tempo.
Assistant coach Andy Farrell said the All Blacks’ ability to deliver and to play an intense, error-free game at high speed still set them apart.
“In the second half they showed why they are world champions. Their speed of thought and speed of the game was outstanding,” he said.
Coach Stuart Lancaster was proud his team were able to absorb the assault and respond with their own late strikes.
It only took a couple of key mistakes early in the second half to open the door, he said, lamenting some poor choices to offload and some loose kicking.
“It’s decision-making at the highest level that we need to look at,” Lancaster said.
Flanker Tom Wood, one of five first-choice players restored for the second Test, admired New Zealand’s ability to withstand another fierce England challenge.
“They weather the storm and back themselves with their fitness to turn up the heat in the second half and blow teams away. They’re used to that feeling,” Wood said.
Manu Tuilagi, so effective as a blockbusting centre for England in the first Test, played a limited role on the wing.
Lancaster won’t consider his selection options until after the tour match against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Tuesday.
“I thought we created lots of opportunities and three tries in Dunedin isn’t a bad return either so we’re heading in the right direction,” he said.