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Borthwick urges ‘excellent’ Smith to bounce back in All Blacks finale
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Borthwick urges ‘excellent’ Smith to bounce back in All Blacks finale

Steve Borthwick has told Marcus Smith “not to dwell” on Saturday’s disappointing 16-15 first Test defeat to the All Blacks and has backed his fly-half to bounce back from the missed kicks which ended up costing England the possibility of a rare victory in New Zealand.

Smith was unable to slot three crucial kicks which could have propelled his team to their first win on Kiwi soil since 2003, with the hosts now guaranteed to retain the Hillary Shield ahead of the second and final Test on Saturday. The All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park in Auckland for the past 30 years.

Borthwick, however, wants Smith to put Saturday’s frustrations behind him and focus on helping the team to level the series. “We can’t do anything about the past,” stressed England’s head coach as his squad relocated from Dunedin back to the North Island. “I don’t want the players to dwell. As a player I used to look back a lot [but] as a coach I want the players to learn lessons then move on very fast. That’s what Marcus will do and that’s what all the players will do.

“Damian McKenzie missed some kicks as well and he is an incredible goal-kicker. It happens. Marcus produced some moments of absolute class as well. That is what he can do. He put Manny Feyi-Waboso in for his try and he was excellent in so many different ways. I thought he defended tough as well – and you have to defend tough against New Zealand.”

Borthwick also said the whole of the squad were right behind Smith, who will be debriefed this week by Kevin Sinfield who missed Saturday’s game after flying back to the UK to attend his friend Rob Burrow’s funeral in Yorkshire. “I don’t want to dwell [on mistakes],” he said. “We go through a lot more of what they did well.

“Goal-kickers of both teams missed shots yesterday. Marcus is an excellent goal-kicker, as is Fin Smith, as is Henry Slade. We can all say if we’d kicked those goals – but there were chances we didn’t take and chances we gave them that we shouldn’t have done. There will be a whole host of things to improve on. The level of contest at the breakdown in New Zealand, for example, is higher than anywhere else in the world. Sometimes players need to experience that … I think we will be better for that experience.”

Among the other areas of special focus will be the scrum, with Joe Marler now sidelined for the remainder of the tour with a foot injury. Northampton’s Emmanuel Iyogun will fly out to join the touring squad as cover, with Fin Baxter and Bevan Rodd the only other fit loosehead props available. “They certainly had the better of the scrums last night, it is one of those areas we will address with the players,” Borthwick said. “The best two scrums in the world are South Africa and New Zealand. We rank just behind them.”

England’s senior players also insist they can give New Zealand renewed problems at Eden Park, having led 15-10 in Dunedin before McKenzie’s two penalties settled the contest. “We were not necessarily in full control but we felt we had a strong handle on the game,” said Maro Itoje, among England’s standout players despite a heavy playing workload this season. “There was probably a time period from 60-70 minutes where our intensity dropped and they just nipped ahead. This team is moving in the right direction … there is lots to be positive about.”

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England, meanwhile, have brushed aside suggestions of sharp practice by the All Black management, who filmed their entire warm-up ahead of the Dunedin Test. “We don’t film the opposition warm-up but we are aware it’s happening,” said Borthwick. “There is nothing anybody sees in our warm-up that will give any clues to what’s going on in the game.”

Source: theguardian.com