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Rugby | Springboks

Lancaster defiant after Bok loss

England coach Stuart Lancaster insisted his side could give world champions New Zealand a run for their money despite Saturday's 16-15 loss to South Africa at Twickenham.

The All Blacks will arrive at 'headquarters' for the December 1 clash on a 20-match unbeaten run following Saturday's 33-10 win over Wales in Cardiff.

New Zealand have won their last nine tests against England, with the Red Rose most recent defeat of the All Blacks a 15-13 success in Wellington shortly before they won the 2003 World Cup.

But having seen England improve their scrum and breakdown work against the Springboks, after being outplayed in both departments during the preceding 20-14 loss to Australia, Lancaster was in bullish mood.

"We didn't win but there is enough there from a young side to give us the confidence that we will go on to win long term," he said.

"It's hugely disappointing, but I certainly do not go into the All Blacks game worrying that we won't get a performance."

England have yet to beat a major southern hemisphere nation under Lancaster, with three tests in South Africa in June yielding two defeats before a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth.

They might have headed into Lancaster's first test against New Zealand with a morale-boosting win but Willem Alberts's converted try early in the second half, which gave South Africa a 10-point lead, ultimately proved decisive.

However, England had a chance to clinch victory at the death.

They were 16-12 behind when, with just two minutes left, England captain Chris Robshaw, heavily criticised for turning down kickable penalties in the defeat by Australia, chose to go for goal rather than opt for an attacking line-out that could have led to a match-winning try.

Replacement fly-half Owen Farrell, on for Toby Flood, whose toe injury could rule him out of facing New Zealand, duly landed the kick but that still left England a point behind and they were unable to gather the re-start.

The controversy surrounding Robshaw's decision was compounded by the time, with the clock ticking down, England took over the penalty.

Robshaw initially told Farrell to go for the posts, only for the Saracens stand-off to shake his head.

Openside flanker Robshaw then appeared to ask referee Nigel Owens if he could change his mind but, by then, the Welsh official had signalled the goal-kick.

Afterwards, Lancaster defended his skipper by saying: "I'm not going to talk about one individual decision over another, not immediately after a game.

"We discuss all the decisions. Some we get right, some we don't get right and that's part of any side's development.

"We're just disappointed to have lost a game we felt we could have won."

"The purpose of having a captain in a team is that he makes decisions and the players back him. That's what should happen. Was that the game-changing moment? There were lots of moments."

One of the key incidents was South Africa's 43rd minute try.

The Springboks lost the ball, albeit backwards, from a close range line-out, only for England scrum-half Ben Youngs's attempted fly-hack clear to rebound off the feet of Springok wing JP Pietersen.

England's Tom Wood knocked on and opposing blindside flanker Alberts flopped over the line.

Farrell kept England in touch with his boot with poor passing and knock-ons, even allowing for the wet conditions at a rainswept Twickenham, frustrating home hopes of a try.

"We go 16-6 down and you look at the team and say 'Have we got the character to take on the team second best in the world, pull yourselves back into the game and give yourself a chance of winning' and we did," said Lancaster.

"The pleasing thing is that you cannot ever question the character of this England team at the moment, you might have done it in the past but you can't do it now. The players deserve the credit for that."


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