England will need more than resilience to get better of New Zealand

If there is one thing England can be sure of against New Zealand it is that the All Blacks will be nowhere near as wasteful in the red zone as South Africa. Eddie Jones and his players will know that and while England must take huge credit for their guts and tenacity, this was a game they set out not to lose – and squeezed home by dodging a bullet right at the death.

Having said that, I expect Saturday’s match to be a lot closer than people may think. I was talking to Joe Marler before the Springboks game and explaining just how wary the All Blacks are of playing at Twickenham. England have lost only once – to Ireland – there under Eddie and they are a different beast at home. Eddie is right to say the All Blacks will be completely different to the Springboks and try and hold on to the ball more, but Twickenham is a funny old ground and you have to play the territorial game.

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New Zealand will not be short of confidence and when I’ve watched them recently, they’ve clearly been trying things and putting themselves under pressure. Sometimes they’ve been holding on to the ball religiously, not kicking at all to test their threshold with ball in hand, but the All Blacks will be coming to win. That’s all that matters because a win away to England would be hugely significant before the World Cup. This is the game that everyone has been talking about for the past four years.

In terms of positives for England, they hung in there and showed their resilience. Those were the soundbites coming out of the dressing room afterwards but those are qualities that should not be underestimated. It was a match they should have lost – Owen Farrell effectively kept them in it and eventually got them home – but they will take heart from how they turned things round in the second half.

I worry about Maro Itoje’s discipline – it is becoming a bit of a theme at this level

The defensive system has changed considerably under John Mitchell. The players are changing from watching the ball, which is Guzzy’s [Paul Gustard] style, to watching the man now, and that takes time to bed in. That seemed to be the problem in the first half – they weren’t comfortable with what they were doing so they were going high and soaking tackles, and in doing so allowing South Africa over the gain-line. Once they got their tackle heights down and brought a bit more sting it allowed others to get over the ball – Tom Curry would have had a field day if he had stayed on.

And as the momentum shifted and the game opened up we got a better idea of what England were trying to do in attack. They were filling the field, taking advantage of some kamikaze defending from South Africa’s wings and putting Brad Shields in the wide channels. You saw the two forward runners in the little spoon shape off 10, running hard, and second-man plays out the back, linking up with the back three to get into the wide channels. I could see the shape but they just need to do it for longer.

The ability to hold on to the ball for longer periods of time in the right areas of the field is going to be crucial. Elliot Daly was a bit of a culprit – he kept on cutting back inside rather than getting the ball in the hands of Jonny May and Jack Nowell.

That may mean a change to the back three and elsewhere; if Manu Tuilagi is fit I would expect him to start. The All Blacks will know the threat he poses and even if he is not the same player as when he was so destructive against them in 2012, he is as dangerous as anyone when used as a short runner for his go-forward.

In the negatives column for England I worry about Maro Itoje’s discipline – it is becoming a bit of a theme at this level and they will have no chance on Saturday if they have such little territory and possession because you can’t sustain that against the All Blacks. The mood in the camp will be so much better than had they lost though, and England will get better with another week’s training and the chance to add some detail. I’m just not sure it’ll be enough.

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