Alastair Hignell: Lancaster's young wards still have so much more to learn
THE epigenesis of intrinsic motivation. I've hoarded the phrase for nearly four decades as an example of how jargon can get in the way of meaning. I first came across it in a lecture on my teachers' training course back in the 1970s.
If I remember it correctly, it referred to that stage in a child's educational development when he or she ceases to produce good work for extrinsic rewards (a gold star, high marks or a word of praise from the teacher), but does so out of an intrinsic desire to produce good work for its own sake and for his or her sense of self-worth.
All England fans will be hoping that Stuart Lancaster's callow young team have reached that stage of their rugby development. If not, they'll be pummelled from one end of Port Elizabeth to the other in Saturday's third test against South Africa. They've lost the first two – and the series – and there's nothing left to play for except their pride. In an inhospitable environment against merciless opponents there's every danger of them throwing in the towel – they wouldn't be the first set of tourists to run for cover in such circumstances – and the main incentive to perform to their capabilities in what will definitely be the last match of a long and wearing season stretching back to the World Cup warm-up matches some ten months ago is likely to be internal.
The fact that they have finished within five and nine points of the Springboks in the first two encounters could be construed as encouraging – after all, the last England team to tour the Republic conceded 50 points in each of its two tests – but only if England compete to the final whistle at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium (the Boet Erasmus in old money). And only if they show that they have learned the lessons of the first two matches.
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By all accounts, England had lost the second Test before it began, overawed by the intensely hostile atmosphere of Ellis Park, as the newly-named Coca Cola Park will always be for fans of a certain vintage. The nerves showed. A try after just three minutes put them on the back foot immediately. Then 22-3 down after 19 minutes, they did well to finish somewhere near the Boks on the scoreboard. Deep down they will know that it could have been so much worse. If the normally metronomic Morne Steyn had been on target with his goal-kicking, if coach Heyneke Meyer hadn't against logic and in contradiction of most of the evidence, been wedded to the idea of getting all his replacements on to the pitch, and if those left on the pitch hadn't taken their foot off English throats, it might well have ended in humiliation for the red rose army.
It didn't, but neither was it anything like a moral victory. True, England scored three tries and with only a few minutes left to play they were within touching distance of one of the greatest burglaries in Test rugby history. But, for all the excellence of the first try, for all the sheer bloody-minded cussedness that kept them in the contest, and for all the audacity of Ben Youngs two second-half touchdowns, England know they were well beaten.
And now they take a third bite at the Springboks without either Youngs or their inspirational captain Chris Robshaw. For both players' battered bodies this is a game too far. The rest of the England party can't afford to let their minds come to the same conclusion. If, for one second, they entertain ideas of damage limitation, of making it through to the end of match without too much collateral damage, they are surely sunk.
The same is true for Wales and Ireland, who complete their series against Australia and New Zealand respectively. They have the added heartache that but for a few cruel seconds last week they would be approaching this weekend's fixtures with every chance of making history. Both were leading at the end of normal time last week. Both lost to last-minute kicks at goal.
Their despair won't go away any time soon. They know that their last tests were victories that "got away". They also know that they can't afford to dwell on the might have beens. However crushing the disappointment, they have to park it.
Like England, Wales and Ireland have massive psychological mountains to climb even before they kick-off. To paraphrase the educationalists, it's all between the ears.