- England Head Coach relishes individual battles
- “Ireland do most things pretty well. It'll be a formidable challenge” – Lancaster
Stuart Lancaster believes the visit of unbeaten Ireland to Twickenham on Saturday will provide a “formidable challenge” for his young England side and is excited about the numerous individual battles that will decide the outcome.
Photo: Getty Images
After two games in this season’s RBS 6 Nations, Lancaster has reason to feel buoyant – there were many positives to take from a gut-wrenching defeat in Paris, while a 20-0 win at Murrayfield came with the comfort of the the hosts not making a single incursion into England's 22.
However, in dismantling last year’s champions Wales 26-3 at the RDS Stadium 10 days ago, Ireland laid down a significant marker.
With locks Paul O’Connell and Devin Toner in excellent form, their driving lineout has become a potent weapon, while back-rowers Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony have disrupted opposition ball at the breakdown brilliantly too, paving the way for Jonny Sexton’s game management to take hold.
Refusing to shy away from the collective test they will proivde, Lancaster acknowledged the tough task ahead.
“They do most things pretty well and that’s why they are going to be such a formidable challenge,” he said. “They have 700 caps in their starting team and very experienced players across the park including many British and Irish Lions.
Photo: Getty Images
“They have excellent cohesion and understanding because they’ve spent a lot of time together, but also because of [new coach] Joe Schmidt’s influence from Leinster.
“Their driving play has improved and their defence has improved. They’re on the back of two wins and in a good place coming into this game.
“They counteracted Wales’ defence and played in the right areas of the field. They kicked the ball more than they have done but only because it was the right thing to do – that’s a sign of maturity and cohesion.”
With the British and Irish Lions successful tour of Australia just six months ago, there is a lingering familiarity between many players in this tournament.
Indeed, Lancaster finished by explaining that mutual awareness of one another’s strengths and weaknesses would provide some enthralling sub-plots.
“It’ll be won and lost up front,” he added. “Both lineouts are organised and function well. Players have a pretty good knowledge of each other from the Lions tour and there are match-ups all over the field.
“Forwards against forwards, our nine and 10 against theirs, our young centres against their experienced centres – there are some great tussles all over the park.”