October 17, 2011
Steve Thompson collects his participation memento from Bill Beaumont © Getty Images
It's a week since our Rugby World Cup exit but I am still gutted that we missed a major opportunity to do something special.
Watching the semi-finals is tough when you are trying to get back to normality. The emotion is still pretty raw and I am still gutted because we should have beaten France. When I returned from injury my goal was to get to the World Cup and having done that is was so disappointing that we failed to take our chance and deliver.
But it's a case of getting in with things. I'm starting at a new club and I can't spend too much time looking back and saying we should have done this or that because that would start to impact on things with Wasps so I've just tried to forget about it and have been out on the bike getting away from it all.
It felt like from the day we turned up in New Zealand certain people were intent on tearing us to shreds. Obviously some things have happened off the field but it was interesting to see Wales coach Warren Gatland say that his side are not whiter than white the other day.
We haven't performed as well as we should have and some players got things wrong and they got reprimanded for that. They have apologised and we moved on but sometimes these issues get dragged out in public rather than people focusing on the rugby. But we're not looking for excuses, we came up short.
Some of the combinations may not have worked as planned but I still think we played some good rugby even in the defeat to France. We threw the ball around and produced some of our best rugby only for a few dropped balls and a couple of missed tackles to cost us. The fact that France have now made the final just adds to the frustration but fair play to them, they got the result they needed against us and Wales.
Looking ahead, there is no way I am going to retire from international rugby. People may be saying I'm too old but if I am playing well for Wasps then I want to be playing for England. I want to wear the England jersey again but we'll see what happens. I don't know what is going on coaching wise and there is all this talk about various inquiries, but the hunger is still there and I am convinced this squad can still do something special.
I really don't know what Johnno will make of the reaction to the campaign but I really hope he wants to carry on. He's built a good squad over the last few years. On the whole I think he has got England to a good place and I am confident that there is more to come, especially from the younger players who will have learnt so much from the World Cup.
I am massively surprised to see France in the final but that is how sport goes some times. There has been a lot of comment from many people saying that Wales' Sam Warburton did not deserve to get sent off and everyone is blaming the referee Alain Rolland for spoiling the game but I don't agree. After tackling France's Vincent Clerc his second motion was to tip him and everyone should know how strict referees and citing commissioners have been on that part of the game. When you lift a player like that you are taking a gamble and we were reminded of that fact during the World Cup. France's Fabrice Estebanez got three week ban for a similar tackle that was considered a red card offence so there was even a recent precedent there.
As for the final, I think it is New Zealand's to lose. They looked so assured against the Wallabies. Rather than being a big gung-ho, which they can be, they were more controlled and just kept the scoreboard ticking over. They are now a well-oiled machine, like South Africa were in '07 and England in '03. Those sides were not always the flashiest teams; they just went out there and did what they had to do. New Zealand are now quite clearly tournament-winning team and that is something they have lacked in the past. They have the mental toughness to go out and win it and I fully expect them to do so.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Thompson will be writing direct from the England camp for ESPNscrum each week during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
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