Maro Itoje has warned his England team-mates they must crank up the intensity for their second Test against Australia if they are to rescue the series.
Eddie Jones’ tourists arrived in Brisbane on Sunday wounded by a 30-28 defeat at Perth’s Optus Stadium where only two late converted tries spared them humiliation on the scoreboard.
It extended their losing run to four matches and concluded Jones’ eight-Test winning sequence against the Wallabies, yet Itoje insists the challenge facing England is about to get harder.
“It’s about raising the intensity. Every three-Test series I have played in the intensity of game two goes up. Game two is one of the crucial games,” Itoje said.
“Both Lions tours I’ve been on, and on the Aussie tour last time we were here, the intensity went up in game two.
“We need to raise the intensity, narrow our focus, focus on what’s important. We’ll be gunning for game two.
“In those moments when your back is against the wall the team has to get tighter. We have to narrow our focus, play tough rugby.
“That’s what is required of us as a team, as forwards, me as an individual. It’s about focussing and doing what we need to do to get the W.”
England cancelled their planned post-match social to begin dissecting a defeat that was among the worst of the Jones era as a final-quarter meltdown saw a 14-9 lead crumble.
Australia lost half-back general Quade Cooper to a calf strain shortly before kick-off and then full-back Tom Banks and prop Allan Alaalatoa departed with injuries sustained early on.
Worse was to come as second row Darcy Swain was sent off for a head butt on Jonny Hill, yet England were still comprehensively beaten by 14 men.
“I’ve played Australia numerous times and they always fight. They don’t go away. The way they prepared and played, nothing was too much of a surprise to me,” Itoje said.
“It’s definitely one that got away. There are aspects of the game we didn’t manage as best as we would have liked.
“It’s a bit disappointing from our point of view but we’ve got two games left and will look to rectify it in Brisbane.”
Among the areas in need of urgent attention is the attack, which started promisingly but fizzled out before igniting in the closing stages when debutant 19-year-old Henry Arundell delivered an inspiring seven-minute cameo off the bench.
The playmaking partnership of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell was partly at fault but Jones will persevere with the creative axis in the belief that it will deliver.
“I’ve seen enough evidence that it will click. They’ve had one and a half games together and they’ll be very good together, but it takes time,” Jones said.
“There’s a lot of improvement in that area. They created some opportunities which we were not quite clinical enough to take. That’s what we need to make sure we work on.”
Jones is facing calls to choose either Smith or Farrell at fly-half and discard the other, although the lack of options at inside centre makes this unfeasible for the time being.
“I didn’t think we fired enough shots for a number of reasons, but I’m excited about what we can do together. I’m looking forward to getting it right hopefully,” Farrell said.