England under pressure as Boks arrive
England's chances of being amongst the top seeds for the 2015 World Cup on home soil are looking unlikely as they look to regroup from defeat to Australia ahead of Tests against the last two world champions.
England's 20-14 loss to the Wallabies is set to have a long-term impact as it means Stuart Lancaster's men, currently fifth in the world rankings, have lost ground to France, who will aim to cement their place as the top-ranked European team against Samoa next weekend.
Lancaster insisted a week was long enough for his side to up their game as the Springboks, fresh from a 21-10 victory over Scotland, arrive at Twickenham this coming Saturday with world champions New Zealand at 'HQ' on December 1.
The England coach refused to question his players' decision-making after captain Chris Robshaw ignored four opportunities to kick for goal as England sought the try that would have turned the match around.
Winger Chris Ashton supported his skipper's decisions, but said England were simply not sharp enough.
"I think we cost ourselves the game," said the Saracens wing.
"We had enough possession in their 22 and we just didn't take our chances. I think the right decisions were made from those penalties. I thought we had them but we just couldn't find that finishing pass.
"Toby Flood tried to find me through the back and if the pass had gone to hand, I would have been through a hole. And then Thomas Waldrom dropped the ball over the line.
"You have to take your chances. Our attack was better (than in last weekend's 54-12 win over Fiji), but we are lacking that clinical edge.
"We put ourselves in a position to win that game and that was the frustrating thing."
2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward said Lancaster had not prepared his side sufficiently for the game.
"The biggest thing is trying to be smart ahead of the game," Woodward told <i>BBC Radio Five Live.</i>
"If you sat down on a Thursday night and gave the players the situation -- you are 20-14 down with 22 minutes to go, you have a penalty, the ball is slow, what do you do? -- the right decision is to kick for goal and reduce the points to just three.
"If you go for the line-out or go for the try, you have to score, and if you don't, you give huge momentum to the defending team; in this case Australia.
"The key thing is not making decisions in the heat of battle -- it is getting these things in players' heads before you go on the pitch, so you know what is going to happen in every single situation. That is the secret to coaching."
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.
"They are the lessons we have to learn for South Africa next week," said Lancaster
"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.
"We'll look at the tape and talk it through, train and learn our lessons."
England captain Robshaw explained that defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.
"We talked about coming out of the traps in the first 20 and we talked about precision and the final pass, yet these were the two areas where again we let ourselves down," said Robshaw.
"We were conscious of Australia's intention to disrupt our ruck platform and at half time we made a decision to throw more numbers into securing the ball in the loose. However, games like this are won on the slimmest of margins and we will spend a lot of time looking at the tape to see how we can close those narrow gaps."
England's game in recent years has relied upon dominance in the set piece. Utilizing brain rather than brawn, the Australians, for once, achieved parity in the scrum.
However, England's tighthead, Dan Cole, was angry at England's inability to apply their perceived superiority.
"Australia are one of those sides that will leave you scratching your head at their scrum tactics," said Cole.
"We are aware that in a straight scrummage battle, we have the strength to come out on top. However the Australian front row are very streetwise; the first scrum they pulled away at the hit and at subsequent scrums were looking to go low and collapse in at the loose head side.
"We were aware before the game that this would be their approach yet we failed to combat it which is very frustrating, especially for me personally."