New Zealand have emerged triumphant in two tight games against the tourists, beating England 28-27 in Dunedin in the second Test seven days after being forced to come from behind to see off Lancaster’s battling outfit 20-15.
The world champions may have an unassailable 2-0 lead to take into the third and final game in Hamilton but England have gained many plaudits for their displays and appear to be on course to enjoy a successful Rugby World Cup on home soil next year.
Lancaster has been head coach of England since March 2012 after he had guided them to second spot in the Six Nations when initially being handed the role on a temporary basis.
Since then he has led England to two more runners-up places in the Six Nations and to a famous win over the All Blacks at Twickenham 18 months ago.
The 44-year-old has also presided over a victory against Australia and a draw with South Africa, as well as leading the Red Rose on a successful tour of Argentina last summer, and there is a general perception that England are on the right path.
Although pleased with the progress that has been made, Lancaster is only too aware that England still have room for improvement though, saying:
“We are closing the gap on New Zealand. I think the ideal scenario is to have the all-court game. To have the intelligent kicking game, the great defence and the attack where you can strike off set-pieces and turn over ball.” He added,
“I think we are good in all those areas but what we need to be is excellent to beat the All Blacks.”
England led 10-6 at half time in Dunedin, but some imperious play early in the second half by the All Blacks put Steve Hansen’s team in control.
Tries from Ben Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu in the space of 22 minutes proved to be decisive, with England responding with tries by Mike Brown and Chris Ashton which ultimately proved to be too little too late.
It was the All Blacks’ 16th successive Test victory and, if they beat England in the third Test, Hansen’s team will equal the New Zealand record for most consecutive wins, which was achieved between 1965 and 1969.
The Red Rose face the Crusaders in Christchurch before the final Test and captain Chris Robshaw is keen to end the tour on a high, saying: “We’ve come down to win a series and we haven’t done that. We’ve still got one more chance and come close on the last two occasions.”
“We’ll throw everything at this last game. It’s a big finale and hopefully we can pull one back.”
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Photo from the Telegraph