- Lancaster remaining upbeat on England's progress so far
- The team need to be more clinical against the Welsh
Head Coach Stuart Lancaster is confident that England will be able to kick-on from their disjointed performance against Italy when they head to Wales on Saturday and is urging his side to remain positive about being unbeaten.
England will arrive at the Millennium Stadium as the only unbeaten side still in the competition to remain on course for a first Grand Slam since 2003.
After only just managing to contain a resurgent Azzurri at Twickenham last Sunday with an 18-11 win, much of the media focus has been placed on England’s lack of finishing. The team failed to convert a number of try-scoring opportunities and have only gone over the whitewash once in the past three games.
England were left to soak up the pressure in defence to close out the match and Lancaster realises that their lack of finishing allowed the Italians to get on the front foot.
“We didn’t take our opportunities in the first half,” he said. “I thought we lacked a bit of composure in the second half and presented them with an easy try. As the momentum shifted we picked up a couple of injuries and Italy grew in strength and character. It was our responsibility to put the game away and we never did that and made it difficult for ourselves. You obviously have to give credit to the Italians for the way they played.
“However, we got the points, but we got three points. It’s much better to get seven then you can start building the score and building the pressure off that position and then they have got to start playing in the wrong areas of the field. From our point of view we needed to turn a few of those three points into seven and we didn’t. That allowed them a foothold in the game and the second half when they got the try.”
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England have a quick turnaround ahead of their clash with the Welsh on Saturday, with one of only two training sessions this week happening tomorrow at Pennyhill Park before they head to Cardiff later in the week. Lancaster says the lack of time before the Wales match will allow England to carry on in a positive mindset and he will be reminding the side this week of their achievements so far in the tournament.
“The message will mainly be about not forgetting our principles and our character and what we did, and what we did right over the course of last four,five,six games. We are still a young side and developing but the development we have made is fantastic. We are still four from four and one game away from a Grand Slam, so I will keep everyone positive as there’s a lot to be positive about.”
Wales have not lost since their opening match against Ireland in February and have three successive wins and valuable momentum of their own after losing their previous eight Tests.
If England win then it will be their sixth Grand Slam since 1928 and first secured on Welsh soil, although Lancaster is quick to dismiss any talk about achieving milestones and is focused purely on kicking-on from the Italy game.
“As a coach and as players we try and steer away from that and stick to getting performance right and getting the plan right. The plan comes first and making sure we learnt the lessons from the Italy game and build on the strengths that we had during the rest of the Six Nations games. And then from there it’s about focusing on the performance, if you do that then you direct your attention in right area and thinking time goes on how to improve our performance and ultimately get the win in what will be a tough game.
“I don’t spend too much time studying the history where people have done what. It comes down to Saturday because it’s irrelevant what has happened in the past; it’s all about the two teams now and the form and the organisation and the execution to come on Saturday.”
Lancaster confirmed that fly half Owen Farrell is fit train tomorrow and available for selection for Cardiff, while he is also optimistic that second row trio Joe Launchbury (elbow), Courtney Lawes (arm) and Geoff Parling (shoulder) will be able to train later in the week.