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Steve Borthwick: Plenty of England growth, we'll be stronger | Jonny May: South Africans don't respect us

Steve Borthwick: "RWC wasn't always a step forward, but been plenty of growth"; Jonny May: "South Africans don't respect us. The things their coach has openly said about us in their documentaries just adds fuel to the fire"; Danny Care: "Hopefully we've changed some perceptions of England"

Image: A hurt Jonny May said 'South Africa don't respect us' after England's agonising Rugby World Cup semi-final loss

We mull over Steve Borthwick's positivity, Jonny May's hurt and Danny Care's hope as part of a look back at England's last-gasp Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa. 

Speaking 12 hours after returning to his hotel on Sunday, the detail-obsessed Borthwick said he had already studied Saturday's game "a couple of times".

"The players poured their heart and soul into it but we have to credit South Africa for finding a way to get a result after being behind on the scoreboard," he said.

"Painful as the experience was, we will learn from it. Over the next day we will really reflect and recover and then we'll come together and start our preparation to play Argentina. And then we'll aim to finish the tournament in the manner we wish to.

"I think you've seen growth in this tournament, it hasn't always been linear, hasn't always been a step forward. I want to make sure we take more growth. I know that we'll get stronger from it."

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Action from Saturday's match as South Africa narrowly defeated England to reach the Rugby World Cup final

Many of England's players collapsed to their knees following a colossal, but ultimately unsuccessful, effort against the reigning champions on a sodden evening in Paris.

While head coach Borthwick was similarly crestfallen by the dramatic late twist at the Stade de France, he stressed his pride and was upbeat about what lies ahead.

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"We came here with a plan to win the game and we fell a little bit short, not far short but a little bit short, so we're desperately disappointed," he said.

"In adversity, in these tough times, there's usually some seed of it there that will grow and be something brilliant in the future. Right now it's too early for me to find that seed but we'll make sure we find it.

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Will Greenwood had nothing but praise for England as they went close to making the World Cup final

"We'll make sure that we take some of what we find, some of what we've gone through, we'll make sure we grab that and we'll make sure it makes us stronger in the future.

"The players should be incredibly proud of what they've done and continue to do as they represent England rugby.

"I know I'll have at home a couple of young boys who are going to be bitterly disappointed and I'm sure there are lots of people that are proud but also gutted back in England, I'm sure there are millions of people like that.

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Courtney Lawes says England gave everything and should have claimed the win against South Africa

"I care about these players, I care about these supporters, and I care about English rugby.

"What I see is a group of guys who are doing as much as they possibly can to set an example, to build a team, to have supporters proud of them.

"They're led by this man next to me (Owen Farrell), who I think has been and continues to be a phenomenal player and an incredible leader of this team."

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Sky Sports' James Cole reflects on England's painful one-point loss to South Africa in the World Cup semi-final

May: South Africans don't respect us

Jonny May said England's heroic effort against the world champions was fuelled by the belief they had been dismissed as a serious threat by South Africa.

"I'll be honest, I don't think necessarily the South Africans respect us," May said.

"Some of the things their coach (Rassie Erasmus) has openly said about us in their documentaries and stuff probably just adds fuel to the fire.

"I try my best personally regardless of whether a team or a coach respect what you do.

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May thinks the South African rugby coaches and players do not respect England

"We're getting better and that's all we can do. Work hard and improve. It was a tighter game than four years ago [2019 World Cup final], this team beat us comfortably in the autumn, but it felt like that was a game that maybe got away from us and on another day we genuinely could have won.

"[Steve Borthwick] put some quotes up, we touched on their documentary and we've got staff who were with them and they gave us insight as to how they feel about us.

"I don't know or really care [if England earnt their respect on the night]. I have respect for those guys and what they do, but it's none of my business what other people think about me.

"Knowing there's no regrets makes me a little bit more at ease, but this is something you've got to process and unwind, and try to make sense of if you can."

Care: Hopefully we've changed some perceptions of England

England scrum-half Danny Care hopes the heartbreaking defeat has won over any England fans who had grown disillusioned with the team.

Booing is a sound heard frequently at England games in recent times, particularly at Twickenham, but Care views the progress made in France under Borthwick's guidance as a cause to rally around.

"There was a lot of stuff said about us before and hopefully we've changed some perceptions, maybe got people believing in us again," the Harlequins scrum-half said.

Danny Care returns for England
Image: Scrum-half Danny Care says he hopes their display has changed some perceptions of this England side

"Before the tournament, we understand that because of our performances people were doubting us a little bit. But then things clicked into gear a bit when we got over to France.

"We've shown stuff that fans can hopefully get behind and be proud of. The support we've had over here and back home has been amazing. This team will go on to bigger and better things, I'm sure of it.

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South Africa's Eben Etzebeth admitted their performance against England was not pretty but was still a very special win

"It was tough in that changing room. Unfortunately great effort doesn't get you over the line sometimes.

"I was sat in the bath with Maro Itoje and we were saying how sport can be cruel. It's why we love it so much, it's on a knife edge so often. There's one happy changing room, one sad one.

"For me personally, when time is running out on your international career it's tough to take, but I'm incredibly proud to be part of this team."