- Leeds camp has players “excited to play for England again”
- “Australia’s coaching team has settled and their key players are playing well” – Lancaster
Despite their indifferent results over the past few months, England head coach Stuart Lancaster believes Australia will provide a “huge threat” in the opening QBE International at Twickenham on November 2.
A series loss to the British and Irish Lions this July led to the resignation of Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans, handing a fiery baptism to his successor Ewen Mckenzie as The Rugby Championship began.
However, after two heavy losses each to New Zealand and South Africa – as well as a rather unconvincing 14-13 win over Argentina – there were far more encouraging performances to end the southern hemisphere season, including a 54-17 thrashing of the Pumas in Rosario and last weekend’s admirable 41-33 defeat to the All Blacks.
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Even so, Lancaster explained that his own squad were poised and prepared following their camp in Leeds this week, with the main aims to revisit the England way of doing things and stir the players' emotions ahead of three important Test matches.
“One of the main objectives has been to reconnect the players with England and the way we do things,” he said. “Obviously they’ve all come from their clubs, so what we’ve tried to do is get them excited about playing for England again.
“It was a big European weekend beforehand, so there are some battered and bruised bodies and because of that, it’s been quite light in terms of training content.
“One of the big things is giving the players a big rest over the weekend so they come into Pennyhill Park fresh and ready to go on Sunday evening. Early next week, we’ll be into Australia mode.”
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While denying that Australia’s intensity surprised him and his players during last year’s 20-14 reversal at HQ, Lancaster does rue a number of missed opportunities during that tie and pinpointed it as an invaluable learning experience.
That said, he also reiterated the challenge that McKenzie’s charges will pose this time around, having been buoyed by recent displays on the back of a prolonged period to gel.
“We’ve seen how hard the Lions were pushed by Australia and we’ve seen the improvements they’ve made in the last two weeks,” Lancaster added. “They’ve got a new coaching team that have settled down now and their key players are playing well. They're a huge threat.
“There’s an element of tiredness when you get to an end-of-season tour, but we’ve never felt it when we’ve been away. Everyone has always been enthusiastic and I’ve never noticed it.
“So to have a team that’s played against the Lions, been through The Rugby Championship and then had a couple of weeks off before coming together – that block of time together is invaluable.
“Compare that to us in the northern hemisphere – we have a couple of days and then a week before heading in to play these teams, so it does count for a lot. It’s not an excuse, it’s reality. You’ve got to get on with it.”