It felt like this match was coming 12 months too late but after a brave display it is like England’s coach is starting afresh
The rain came 30 minutes before kick‑off but the storm broke only when the match started, the first collision the opening crack of thunder. It blew for two hours until, in the very end, England lost a brilliantly entertaining, brutally competitive game, 16-15. They had pushed the best team in the world right to the brink. Back in 2016, Eddie Jones promised that “everything we are doing now is about coming up with a game to beat New Zealand, to make them uncomfortable. You can and hopefully will see that by 2018.” Two years later, England were two points away from making good on his promise. Even so, Jones said he was proud of them. And rightly so.
There have been times this year when it felt like this match against the All Blacks had come 12 months too late. Last year England were so keen, so confident, that there were people who wanted to bump the All Blacks’ autumn match against the Barbarians just so England could get in an early shot at them. But the team have had a long, rough 12 months, suffering losses to Scotland, Ireland, France, and South Africa. The team that reached a peak in the world rankings when they beat Scotland by 40 points at Murrayfield for their 18th straight win last March belongs to a different era. Half of that side are gone now: four injured, three dropped, another retired.
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