London – England coach Stuart Lancaster insisted a week was long enough for his side to up their game after a 20-14 defeat by Australia at Twickenham saw them again fall short against one of the world's top sides.
Under Lancaster, England have yet to beat one of the old Tri-Nations in four matches, with this loss following two defeats and a draw away to South Africa earlier this year.
The Springboks, fresh from a 21-10 victory over Scotland, arrive at Twickenham this coming Saturday with world champions New Zealand at 'headquarters' on December 1.
Three Toby Flood penalties and a somewhat fortunate Manu Tuilagi try gave England, who the previous week had hammered Fiji 54-12, a scarcely deserved 14-11 half-time lead on Saturday.
But Australia, with assured full-back Berrick Barnes kicking three second-half penalties in a 10 minute spell, bounced back to prevent England scoring at all after the break.
And with wing Nick Cummins having by then scored his first Test try to end a Wallaby drought of more than three-and-a-half hours, it was a good day all-round for Australia as they recovered impressively from last week's 33-6 thrashing by France in Paris.
England's defeat could have a long-term impact as it means Lancaster's men, currently fifth in the world rankings, are now unlikely to earn a top four seeding for the 2015 World Cup on home soil.
“I'm disappointed we lost but I thought Australia played a smart game and bounced back from their defeat against France last week,” said Lancaster
“There were lots of positives from our own performance but the reality is we needed to take the opportunities we created.
“They are the lessons we have to learn for South Africa next week.”
Asked if a week was long enough to put things right, a confident Lancaster replied: “Of course it is. Every game's a new game.
“You learn, review and move on.
“We have got to be better. Australia proved in their 18-18 draw with New Zealand they can put out a performance at the top end and they have done that today (Saturday).
“We'll look at the tape and talk it through, train and learn our lessons.
“They are all must-win games,” Lancaster admitted. “We're devastated to have lost this game. They (Australia) managed the breakdown better.”
In the second half, England turned down a couple of kickable penalties, opting for attacking line-outs, only to come away with nothing.
“We'll look at every decision but with the momentum at the time I thought it was the right decision. You back your players on the field,” said Lancaster.
“If we are going to give players the confidence to go out and play then we have to back them.”
Cummins's well-taken try, plus a Barnes penalty and drop-goal, kept Australia in touch in the first half and the result might have been different had not England No 8 Thomas Waldrom lost possession in the act of touching down.
But Waldrom's mistake was just one of numerous handling errors by an England side who, while playing in an unfamiliar purple rather than their traditional white, exhibited some all too well-known failings.
By contrast, the Wallabies displayed the rugby nous often associated with Australia teams.
Even when the hosts pressed hard late on, they rarely looked ruffled and admiring England backs coach Andy Farrell said:
“Australia played a very smart game. Their attack was good and asked a lot of questions.
“All round you have to take your hat off to Australia. They didn't look desperate, they looked controlled.” – Sapa-AFP