- Stuart Lancaster will be closely watching the Rugby Championship
- England have won eight of last nine at Twickenham Stadium
While attention was turned to England Women’s fabulous World Cup victory last weekend, the Rugby Championship was getting off to a rather underwhelming start in Sydney and Pretoria.
Australia battled to a 12-all draw with New Zealand – therein denying the All Blacks a record-breaking 18th straight victory – while South Africa laboured to 13-6 victory over Argentina thanks to a single try from Springboks scrum half Ruan Pienaar.
England face the three southern hemisphere giants, plus Samoa, on successive Saturdays from November 8 at Twickenham and Stuart Lancaster will be a keen observer of how the sides line up and execute their game plans.
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Describing the series as “huge and fascinating”, the England Head Coach said analysing the opposition will be balanced against assessing his own players in the eight rounds of domestic and European action before the QBE Internationals.
“It will be fiercely competitive,” Lancaster said from the squad’s four-day summer training camp in Loughborough. “Both South Africa and Australia are on the up, New Zealand are obviously at the top and Argentina will give them competitive games throughout.”
“When they finish playing against each other they have a couple of weeks break and then come straight to the northern hemisphere for our tour, so there’s a huge amount we can watch and take out of their games.
“But equally, September will come around and we’ll take a lot out of watching our own players in their Premiership and European games as we lead into those November internationals. There’s a lot of rugby to be watched, we’re looking forward to it and to building our game plan to beat these sides.”
New Zealand host Australia at Eden Park in Auckland tomorrow morning while South Africa travel to Argentina to complete the second round of Rugby Championship fixtures at the Estadio Padre Ernesto in Martearena in the afternoon.
After the 3-0 series defeat to the All Blacks this summer and with the Rugby World Cup just less than 13 months away, the four autumn matches stand as an acid test of England’s tournament credentials.
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The coach and competitor in Lancaster is animated by four different challenges in four weeks and said the team must build on their impressive recent home form to make Twickenham an intimidating fortress for visiting teams.
England have won eight of their last nine games in front of the English public and Lancaster added: “The [visiting] teams are very different and that’s what makes it such an interesting series from a spectator point of view.
“South Africa’s driving mauling game and strength and power versus Australia’s speed, agility and skill, then New Zealand’s speed and counter attack and back three challenges.
“We’ve done a pretty good job to this point [of making Twickenham a fortress]. Certainly the spectators have done a great job, the England Rugby fans unbelievable in terms of the support they’re giving to the team now.
“You can’t underestimate it, the players get lifted by it every time they walk in there, even when it’s empty so when you fill it full of 82,000 people it’s very inspiring. Twickenham rocking is some place.”