It was a MAD decision by England's Marcus Smith to not go for the win

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Marcus Smith’s decision to kick the ball out for full time in Saturday’s draw with New Zealand was MAD…England were on top and could have snatched a late victory

  • England rescued a late 25-25 draw against New Zealand on Saturday evening
  • New Zealand dominated large parts and took an early first-half lead
  • But England clawed their back with late tries in the high-octane encounter
  • England fly-half Marcus Smith kicked the ball dead and secure the draw
  • But England were on top and should have gone for the win against the All Blacks 

If I’d been the England coach at Twickenham on Saturday night I’d have gone absolutely mad at Marcus Smith’s decision to kick the ball out and accept a draw.

I’d have wanted to know why. For me, Smith’s option showed that England’s mentality isn’t in the same league as the other top teams.

I don’t think New Zealand would have done that.

The obvious thing to say after such a crazy game is well done to England for salvaging something from it. But a crazy final 10 minutes shouldn’t detract from the previous 70.

England head coach Eddie Jones (right) praised fly-half Marcus Smith (left) after Saturday’s draw with New Zealand

England clawed back a draw against the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday evening

England’s late salvo must not paper over the cracks. For long periods Eddie Jones’ side were second best. England made basic errors and their discipline was poor.

And yet they could still have won. I was so disappointed when Smith booted the ball out. Everyone around me watching at Twickenham felt the same way. A few looked at me and said a few words which are unprintable! It was hugely disappointing.

I could understand the boos from the crowd.

England were very poor for the first 70 minutes before a crazy final 10.

At the finale, New Zealand were there for the taking. After losing Beauden Barrett to a yellow card, the All Blacks were on the ropes. That’s what makes Smith’s call so disappointing.

Late tries ensured England avoided what at one stage looked set to be a heavy defeat

Smith decided to kick the ball out on last play with the match level and England on top

Jones’ post-match comments that he trusts the players to make those decisions don’t wash with me. Yes, England did well to rescue a share of the spoils. Yes, England did well to score 19 points in the final 10 minutes to take something from the game. And yes, New Zealand should have won.

But it could have been so much more for England because after Will Stuart’s converted try tied the game, the restart came their way and they still had a man advantage.

Had this game been a World Cup final I would be of a different view. But it wasn’t. It was an autumn international with nothing of huge significance riding on the result.

Sir Clive Woodward admitted he would not have been happy to see Smith kick the ball out if he was England head coach

England should have gone for broke and aimed to seal a statement win. They didn’t and for me that is a huge shame. That sort of safety-first mentality is hard to shift.

At the point Smith settled for the draw, England had all the momentum and retained a man advantage with Barrett still in the sin bin. New Zealand were all at sea too.

It was a priceless opportunity which England let pass them by. The All Blacks will be kicking themselves in the coming days. They were the better team for all but 10 minutes.

Ian Foster was right to say the All Blacks should have walked away from Twickenham with a win. He was also right to admit his surprise England didn’t go for the victory. Foster admitted he’d have wanted New Zealand to go for broke had they been in England’s position.

This is what I mean about mentality. You can’t switch that overnight.

England aren’t quite at the level of France, Ireland and the other best teams in the world. Smith kicking the ball out shows England’s attitude is not yet where it needs to be.

The final 10 minutes showed that England do have the ability to play some impressive running rugby, but why does it take going nearly 20 points behind for the team to go for broke?

Where was that attacking verve in the first 70 minutes?

New Zealand dominated large parts of the match with a series of impressive tries

England fought their way back during a physical second-half at Twickenham on Saturday

There were so many penalties over the course of the game and from both sides too. Neither England or the All Blacks could get on the right side of referee Mathieu Raynal.

There was a big difference in the attacking play on show. England still have a lot of work to do there. Their tries came in a late salvo and with Barrett in the sin bin.

England manager Eddie Jones praised his team’s ability to fightback against New Zealand

New Zealand were a different beast and their try from Rieko Ioane summed that up. It was a hugely impressive effort. When Ioane raced away to score and then Beauden Barrett slotted his drop goal, the game looked up for England.

They deserve credit for coming back to earn a draw. But it could have been so much more and England will know that deep down.




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