Flanker Tom Wood has dismissed suggestions England’s World Cup 2015 preparations have stalled after Stuart Lancaster’s men slumped to a fifth straight international loss after crashing 31-28 against South Africa at Twickenham at the weekend.
After making huge strides under Lancaster in the last two years; pundits and former players alike have suggested England are no longer on a steep improvement curve and have called for changes to personnel ahead this weekend’s fixture with Samoa.
England may be suffering with a catalogue of injuries presently but Wood insists his team-mates won’t be hiding behind excuses after losing in successive weekends against New Zealand and now South Africa.
Despite another narrow loss, there were moments to buoy England supporters against the Springboks – namely two pushover-tries from David Wilson and Ben Morgan in three second half minutes and more set piece dominance.
And despite the pressure for Lancaster to make wholesale changes; Wood insists England won’t be pressing the panic button just yet.
He said: “I think there are loads of things to consider. We’re not looking to make excuses, but there are lots of things, like injuries, like changing personnel, that do take time to bed in.
“We feel prepared for these games, we came in with high spirits and believing we could win, and we’ve come very close to doing so, so we’ve got to just keep going with it.
“We have to keep adjusting; we have to keep playing these big games and big opposition to test what we’re doing and put ourselves under pressure.
“So far we’ve not quite got everything right. We’ve shown what we’re capable of in spells but we haven’t quite nailed it for 80 minutes, and we haven’t had the clarity and composure we needed at certain times to relieve pressure.
“That’s what we’re not doing very well at the moment, I feel.
“I feel when we get the ascendency, when we get our game rolling; we’re more than a match for anybody.
“You’ve seen the All Blacks and the South Africans, with big reputations for forward packs, rolling at times, but we need to put ourselves in the right area of the field and we need to relieve pressure, because at certain times they turn the heat up on us and unfortunately we’re found wanting.
“It’s an 80 minute game and we need to make sure we’re controlling those moments of the game a bit better than we are.”
Wood admitted the mood in the England camp was pretty black after losing to South Africa at the weekend but has backed his team-mates to put in much-improved performances against Samoa and Australia at the backend of November.
“We’re pretty frustrated and disappointed,” he added. “We came in believing we could win both games, and we’ve come pretty close to doing so.
“But for a couple of errors on our part, and in close margins you always look back at certain decisions in there and question those, but the reality is we’ve got to keep looking in the mirror before we look out the window, so to speak, and keep working on our own things.
“It’s not the end of the world, it’s disappointing to lose in an England shirt, it always is, and you never want to accept it, particularly at Twickenham, but the fact that we’ve lost by two close margins in two very competitive games, against the best two teams in the world, isn’t back to the drawing board or everyone on suicide watch.
“It’s important we keep our heads high, and keep looking on and believing in what we’re trying to do, and our systems and everything else.
“We understand that we’ll come under a lot of pressure now, the heat’s going to come on from the rugby media and the public, no doubt.
“Everyone relates everything back to the World Cup and puts it in that context now, so for us we’ve got to stay tight as a group, just keep plugging on and make sure that we keep doing the basics well, and preparing as well as we can.”
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