Mark Cueto has defended Charlie Hodgson after his Sale team-mate was singled out for criticism after the first Test defeat to New Zealand in Auckland.
England fly-half Hodgson was replaced after just 50 minutes of the 37-20 defeat at Eden Park - and found himself facing question marks over his international future.
Hodgson's defensive frailties were exposed in the loss, with Ma'a Nonu in particular targeting him.
However Cueto, scorer of the try that never was in the World Cup final in 2007, has backed Hodgson to bounce back from the disappointment.
"I am gutted for Charlie," Cueto told Sky Sports News. "He is a close mate of mine.
"He has been in outstanding form all season. He has had two horrific knee injuries throughout his career and bounced back every time almost better, bigger and stronger.
"He has fought his corner all season to show how good a player he is and to get his opportunity in New Zealand.
"It wasn't just him on the day it was a collective performance. We talk about rugby being the ultimate team sport but sometimes people in those positions get picked at a little and unfortunately for Charlie, he did.
"But I am sure he will come back bigger and better next season and be a better player for us."