TWICKENHAM (AFP) – Captain Dylan Hartley said England had suffered a “big bump on the road” to next year’s World Cup but insisted they would bounce back from their mauling in the Six Nations.
England’s next assignment is a tour of South Africa in June, where they will look to pick up the pieces of their fifth-placed Six Nations finish.
The Red Roses have fallen to third in the Test rankings following Saturday’s chastening 24-15 home defeat to Grand Slam-winners Ireland, their third straight loss.
But Hartley insisted England had time to regain their best form before Japan 2019, where New Zealand’s All Blacks will be looking to lift their third successive World Cup.
“We’ve found deficiencies in our game and at the breakdown, we’ve got to learn to adapt earlier in games,” Hartley said.
“Individual discipline has killed us. I’d rather this happened to this team now than later on,” the New Zealand-born hooker added.
Coach Eddie Jones left open the possibility of resting England’s British and Irish Lions players for the tour of South Africa, after fatigue was blamed for their lacklustre form.
“We still have to look at how we look after the Lions players,” said Jones. “That’s still a concern for us.
“We will do that and that was always in the plans, but otherwise we will select how we always select.”
England’s World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward said England were paying the price for having several senior players involved in last year’s Lions tour of New Zealand.
Several Ireland stars also had key roles in the combined side’s 1-1 drawn Test series but, significantly, they have faced far less gruelling workloads since returning home.
“You can’t overstate what happened on the Lions tour,” said Woodward, whose side won the 2003 World Cup final against an Australia team coached by Jones.
“Every time the Lions toured, the way our players have to play so many games for their clubs, it meant you would have a bad year (afterwards),” he added.However, Jones said facing a “rejuvenated” South Africa is just what England need to restore their confidence.
“It’s a good place, because we can get the team together and work together, day-in, day-out,” said Jones, a consultant to the Springbok side that won the 2007 World Cup.
“It’s going to be fantastic for us and they (South Africa) are going to be a rejuvenated team,” added the Australian, whose overall record as England coach stands at 24 wins from 28 Tests.
The Springboks have been in a prolonged slump themselves, but hopes are high that under new coach Rassie Erasmus one of the traditional powerhouses of world rugby will return to winning ways.