England coach Stuart Lancaster says his side are hurting after five losses in a row including defeats to world champions New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham.
England have only 10 more games until they stage next year’s World Cup, leaving Lancaster with little time to make the hosts serious contenders to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy.
Saturday’s loss to South Africa – taking the Red Rose brigade to their worst run in eight years – was especially dispiriting, given their forwards generated so much possession despite sometimes struggling at the breakdown.
But England’s longstanding problem of how to best use the ball was again in evidence, with halves Danny Care and Owen Farrell struggling to impose themselves amid aimless kicking and poor passing in the 31-28 defeat – an outcome not as close as the scoreline indicated.
But Lancaster said his side had better accept the scrutiny was only going to intensify between now and the World Cup.
“We’re going to have pressure on us when the World Cup comes around, irrespective of the results leading up to it.
“That’s what comes with the expectation of being the home nation, so we better get used to it. And so had I.
“It hurts when you lose as England – and it should do.
“It hurts me personally because I’m responsible for the team and it hurts the players because the players care about the team.
“My sense is that we’re disappointed with ourselves, but we have to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”
Four of England’s recent defeats have come against the All Blacks, with South Africa second only to New Zealand in the world rankings.
A defiant Lancaster took some comfort from the fact England had not been humiliated in any of those five matches.
“It’s easy to say you’ve not won any of your last five games, but the opposition has been pretty good and three of the defeats were in New Zealand.
“We’ve not been smashed by any of them. I’ve seen South Africa get beaten by 30 points in the summer; I’ve seen South Africa beat Australia by 30 points; I’ve seen New Zealand put 50 points on Australia.”
Lancaster is set to make changes for Saturday’s match (Sunday AEDT) against Samoa, ahead of their November finale against World Cup pool rivals Australia.