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I will always remember being sat on the bus back from the final in 2007, having also just lost to South Africa. Rob Andrew stood up and told us that we would never forget the pain of it. He was heading up the RFU at the time and knew how it felt himself being in the side that lost in 1991.
It made us laugh because it’s not what you want to hear, sat there after losing the chance of a lifetime. But he was right. When you look back after your career, you know that you are missing that medal.
I was only 21 at the time and was probably a bit too young. But you look at the likes of Joe Marler, Dan Cole, Ben Youngs, all of those people.
The pain England felt on Saturday will remain with them for the rest of their lives
This was their last chance to do something spectacular for them and their careers. All the talk of tours around London and crap like that does fill your mind on occasion when you are so close to the final and glory. That will hurt.
It is such a strange feeling. There is pride that you have got so far and done so well but tainted with the knowledge that you have fallen short. But there is no doubt that the best team on the day are world champions.
After the semi-final, I said that if Eddie Jones’s side faced South Africa, it would be like England facing themselves — a strong pack, huge runners, intelligent kickers. They would just have to make sure they played their own game better. They didn’t.
You feel for players like Dan Cole (L) who will never again have the chance to win a World Cup
When I was at Leicester Tigers, our Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni would always say to us: ‘No scrum, no win.’ Well, England’s scrum was obliterated by the Springboks. South Africa won every single physical battle.
England knew South Africa were going to bring their physicality but it is one thing knowing it’s coming and another being able to stop it.
The Springboks defence was really off the chart. Manu Tuilagi just could not get his hands on the ball. Neither could Anthony Watson. Jonny May was non-existent.
South Africa beat England at their own game and that is what is most heartbreaking for us
From a fly-half’s point of a view, it is demoralising when you know that, whenever there is a set-piece, the ball is either going to come to you slowly or not at all. It was as close to a perfect performance in a final as there could possibly be.
Maybe Warren Gatland was right — maybe England’s final was last week against New Zealand. Maybe there was an emotional drop off, a loss of adrenaline, with a whole week of knowing they were the better team.
It is so much easier to play when you are the underdog, much harder when you
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