England forwards coach Graham Rowntree said the side had been “beating themselves up” ahead of Saturday’s clash against Samoa at Twickenham as they seek a first win of the November international campaign.
Defeats by world champions New Zealand and South Africa this month have extended 2015 World Cup hosts England’s losing run to five straight matches and re-inforced the idea they are running out of time to challenge the game’s top nations in the battle to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy next year.
Even though both their recent losses to the All Blacks and the Springboks have been by three-point margins in each case, Rowntree said that had not lessened the sting of defeat ahead of a match against Samoa that England now dare not lose.
“It’s been a tough week — one of the hardest I’ve experienced,” Rowntree said Friday. “There have been some very frank discussions.
“We’re really unhappy with our two defeats. Although they’re by a total of six points, we know we’re under-performing and that hurts.
“There were plenty of harsh words from everyone involved. We’ve had some very frank discussions.
“You spend two and a half days beating yourselves up, showing lads clips of what to do better because we can’t have things reoccurring as they are.”
England conclude their November programme against 2015 World Cup pool rivals Australia, in action this weekend against Ireland.
However, first come Samoa and former Leicester and England prop Rowntree was well aware of the challenge posed by the Pacific Islanders.
“Samoans are quite sizeable,” Rowntree said. “I’ve played with enough of them and against many of them.
“A lot of them play in Europe, so we know quite a lot about them.
“They’re capable of pulling off upsets and we saw that against Wales a couple of years ago (when Samoa won 29-16 in Cardiff). They have our utmost respect.”
The last time England played Samoa was at Twickenham was in November 2010, when England had to come from behind in the second half to win 26-13.
And Samoa coach Stephen Betham, whose players have been involved in an off-field row with the Samoa Rugby Union overs its running of the game, said: “We are not there to make up the numbers — we are going there to compete.”
As for England’s recent woes, Betham added: “Although they had five losses, those losses were very close and could have gone either way.
“We are expecting England to be at their strongest. Although they’ve had some positional changes, I’m sure the coaching staff have some tricks up their sleeve.”
Among those changes is the latest attempt to bolster an England back division lacking creativity in recent matches, with coach Stuart Lancaster moving regular fly-half Owen Farrell to inside centre and giving a first Test start to Bath No 10 George Ford.
“Playing Ford and Farrell together is unusual but sometimes we can get carried away with what England are doing,” Betham said.
“We can be our own worst enemies so we have concentrated a lot on what we can do better.”