You can line up all the excuses you like for the Kiwis, but in the end their defeat by England came down to pretty much one thing: they dropped too much ball.

Failing to control possession in league is just plain suicide. The Kiwis players wrote their own ticket home a week early from the Four Nations tournament.

Coach Stephen Kearney might well hear a bit of rustling and pecking outside his hotel door this morning because a few chickens came home to roost yesterday.

It has more to do with the difficulties of weekly newspaper deadlines than poor judgment, but it was still an interesting exercise to open a Sunday newspaper and read a nice cuddly story about Kearney's coaching ability shortly after his side had capitulated in Huddersfield.

There was nothing wrong with the piece. Kearney is a good coach. But the timing was well off - serendipitous, really, given the way the Kiwis' backline functioned. Or rather didn't.

Rotation has a bad rap in this country, but one philosophy seldom questioned is that in tournament play it's prudent to rest some key players against the minnows. Doing so takes those players out of harm's way, provides a chance for fringe players to push their case and provides welcome rest for weary legs.

That said, playing the same side each week takes the possibility of an embarrassing upset out of play and helps build continuity and cohesion.

A Kiwis side already light on experience could ill afford losing Steve Matai to the eye injury he suffered in Toulouse, while the selection of Kieran Foran ahead of Krisnan Inu as his replacement was a gamble that failed.

The Kiwis have enjoyed some success blooding young players before they are really ready. Loose international eligibility rules and the desire to get players into the fold who might otherwise end up in green-and-gold is a driving factor in NZRL's pro-active selection policy.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Junior Sa'u were this year's two big success stories, but Foran turned out to be pushing the boat out too far. The promising Manly half floundered at centre, where he was carved up by Chris Bridge for the decisive English try.

Inu should have played. End of story.

The other returning chook was Lance Hohaia, who pretty much ran around like one under a succession of testing bombs. Hohaia is the best bench player in the game, from where he can slot seamlessly into the halves or provide an explosive shift at dummy half.

But he's not a fullback.

That said, Hohaia has turned in some wonderful displays in the No 1 shirt. But most of them - the World Cup final and the man-of-match effort in the recent draw with the Roos included - have been a case of the little man triumphing over adversity.

He makes blunders that scream "I am not a fullback" but recovers with a grace that adds "but I am still a damned good player".

The Kiwis have no shortage of specialist options at fullback. It's time to use one.

Ideally, the first choice would be Brent Webb, the star of the '05 and '06 Tri-Nations campaigns. Webb was a genius and it would be a shame if we'd seen the last of the Torres Strait Islander in a Kiwis jersey.

Sadly, that is likely to be the case. A career-threatening back injury suffered two years ago could well mean his eyes are now set on squeezing club pay cheques out of what years remain.

But that still leaves Sam Perrett, Jason Nightingale or Kevin Locke as decent candidates.

Despite yesterday's loss the Kiwis probably deserve a tentative pass mark for their efforts on tour. They muscled up against the Aussies, whupped the French but were ultimately shorn of too many resources to subdue a defiant England side on their home turf.

Chalk 2009 down as a development year. Certainly there was enough reason for optimism. But better will be expected next year when the Four Nations comes Downunder.