LONDON (Reuters) - Defeat by South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final will be a lesson England’s players remember for the rest of their careers, according to England’s former scrumhalf Matt Dawson.
After beating Australia and New Zealand to reach the final, England were favourites to claim the trophy for the first time since 2003, but were overwhelmed in a 32-12 defeat.
“England have learned a big lesson,” Dawson, part of the side to beat Australia in the 2003 showpiece, told the BBC.
“Those players are going to remember that for the rest of their lives and hopefully store it up to say they are never going to feel like that again, never going to make those mistakes under that sort of pressure again and they will come back as better players.”
England’s scrum fell apart against the intensity of the Springboks and only during a period midway through the first half did they seriously threaten to score a try.
Dawson said that impressive as England coach Eddie Jones’s tactics had been throughout the tournament, he was out-thought by South Africa’s Rassie Erasmus in the final.
“We have been praising Jones and waxing lyrical about how perfect England’s build-up and preparation has been,” Dawson said. “But ironically they lost because they looked like they did not have the ability to adapt on the field when South Africa were not playing the way that England expected.
“It is very difficult to change on the field, but it has been a fairly common trait of England sides over the past 10 years of not being able to adapt under that type of pressure.
“The senior England players should have stood up and realised what they were doing what was not working.”
Despite the crushing disappointment, Dawson said people should remember how far England have progressed since failing to get out of their pool at their home World Cup in 2015.
“People are going to be after Jones now but you cannot get away from the fact that he has done a magnificent job with that England team,” Dawson said.
“He has taken them to the brink of world domination. They have had a bad day at the office. But one bad day compared to the many weeks of success he has brought to this England side.
“A lot of those players are going to be around in four years’ time. Hopefully, Jones will stick around and help in some way so England can progress even further.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis