- England Head Coach delighted with Paris performance
- Lancaster turns attentions to Scotland
Stuart Lancaster has expressed his pride at England’s effort and attacking ambition, but admits the agony of Saturday’s last-gasp 26-24 defeat in Paris is in no way tempered because of it.
Despite a horrific start that saw them go behind 16-3 to France within the first 22 minutes, the visitors dragged themselves back into contention.
Luther Burrell’s debut try and a neat drop-goal from Danny Care in the second period forged an unlikely 21-16 advantage – completing a one-sided spell of 18 unanswered points.
But while Lancaster admitted such a robust resurgence was heartening, he also addressed a worrying trend of starting Test matches rather slowly.
“It was as good a performance as we have put in for a long period of time,” he said. “I’m delighted with the that, but hurting for the players. I know how much they put towards winning and how much they care about winning. That’s why it hurt so much to lose at the end.
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“The sheer determination to come back from 16-3 down was great – it happened against New Zealand [in November] from 17-3 down and we were down to Australia at half-time, too.
“We need to find a way not to put ourselves into these positions because it will be an awful lot easier for us. If we hadn’t, we could’ve gone away and won [at the weekend]. Even then, it was very small margins – the bounce of a ball or a millimetre on the try that Danny Care nearly scored.
“Going through the fire teaches a lot you because you’ve been there before and you know what it feels like. No team goes unbeaten all the time – it’s naïve to think that. New Zealand lost five games in 2009 and won the World Cup two years later.
“Now we’ve got to make sure we learn our lessons and hold our nerve after losing a game like that and turn the motivation into a positive.”
One overwhelming positive of England’s approach was their fast-paced, structured phase-play. All told, they beat 28 French defenders – the most of any team in the opening round of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations – and executed 15 offloads.
Fly half Owen Farrell was pivotal in conducting that, and enjoyed arguably his most impressive individual showing at the highest level. Lancaster noted the excellence of his number 10, but was quick to pinpoint a fine collective display.
“You can see the growth in Owen and the growth in the team. We had a great two-sided attack and caused a multitude of options and the French were hanging on at the end.
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“They had a couple of breakdown turnovers which we need to be better but overall it was a really positive performance from 1 to 23.”
Reinforcing the importance of focussing on their own preparations rather than worrying about other contenders for the Championship, Lancaster explained that the Stade de France heartbreak would be forgotten very quickly.
Scotland were beaten soundly 28-6 beaten by Ireland in Dublin yesterday, meaning this weekend's game at Murrayfield is a contest between two teams fighting to stay alive in this tournament.
“It’s probably more frustrating for a coach because you don’t have the outlet of a game at the end of it,” added Lancaster. “You sit there and stew it over but although you probably control 80 per cent of the outcome, the rest is down to the players. We’ve got to make sure we take it on the chin and move on.
“You’ve got to give rational reasons why we lost and give a solid basis to the players with regard to what we can do better next time. Then we need to turn the disappointment into motivation. It’s as much psychology as technical sometimes.
“[Scotland] will be disappointed to start with a loss. It’s never good to do that – as we feel. Dealing with their frustration will be a key factor leading into this week’s performance.”