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Echoes of seminal 2000 tour in midweek South Africa games

27 April 2012

  • Stuart Lancaster highlights the importance of midweek games in SA
  • Goal is a squad that has grown-up together says Head Coach
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster looks on at training

Photo: Getty Images

Stuart Lancaster has pinpointed the two midweek games in South Africa this June as crucial in the continued individual and collective evolution of his squad.

England will face SA Barbarians South in Kimberley on June 13 and SA Barbarians North side in Potchefstroom on June 19, sandwiched between Test matches on successive Saturdays from June 9.

The tour has echoes of England’s successful trip to the country in 2000, when the touring side drew the Test series 1-1 and won all three midweek games – two of which were also staged in Kimberley and Potchefstroom.

In those games then Head Coach Clive Woodward handed valuable experience to a number of players who would go on to play a key role in the Rugby World Cup victory in 2003, a point not lost on Lancaster.

"The Tests are ultimately the benchmark but the midweek games are hugely important for a lot of the players and the coaches as well," the England Head Coach said.

"Part of the next stage for us is to go to South Africa and continue to build. Having the midweek games is a fantastic opportunity to bring some other players into the squad and lads who were just on the outside of the Six Nations group.

"It will be a similar group, obviously, but there are still places to be fought for."

Goal is a squad that has grown-up together – Lancaster

Former England flanker Joe Worsley in action during a midweek international in South Africa in 2000

Photo: Getty Images

Players such as Will Greenwood (three starts), Joe Worsley (three starts) and Josh Lewsey (two starts, one bench) proved their international pedigree on the 2000 tour and went on to became important players in 2003.

In addition to handing out eight Test debuts during the course of the RBS 6 Nations, Lancaster showed his willingness to invite promising young players – Joe Launchbury, Chris Brooker, Alex Goode, Henry Trinder – to train with England.

The Cumbrian is set to name a squad of more than 40 to travel to South Africa on May 10 and outlined his intention to take a closer look at a number of players who he believes will be challenging for international places in the coming years.

He added: "Right from the outset I spoke about a long term plan and building a squad during the course of the next two or three years that has grown up together.

"We want to work with a wider group of players and bring some in who are already playing in the Aviva Premiership but who we also think in one or two years’ time will be pushing through to start internationals. We think we can accelerate their development in that environment.

"We want to win but you also need to build your team around a core group of players and that cannot just be 15 people. You need two, if not three, players in every position that you can call on and you trust."