- England Head Coach delighted for players after Ireland win
- Lancaster praises full back Mike Brown
Stuart Lancaster has credited an “all-round performance” for England’s 13-10 win over Ireland, but says his charges will need to be more clinical and composed in attack when Wales come to Twickenham on March 9.
Lancaster was overcome with joy at the final whistle and punched the air when referee Craig Joubert signalled the end of an immensely tense game.
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However, while acknowledging his relief and pride, he also suggested that a tumultuous atmosphere – which caused some players to complain that on-field calls were inaudible – was no excuse for failing to convert some glaring chances.
“I was just chuffed for the players,” Lancaster said. “I know how hard they’d prepared in the week and how good the Ireland team were – they got their reward.
“It’s hard when you’re in the coaching box to appreciate the atmosphere because you’re so focussed on the game. You’re looking for every nuance in the game and trying to find solutions. My sense was that it was pretty special, though.
“We need to be better at scanning – you can’t blame crowd noise for not scoring tries. There are rare occasions I can remember where players can’t hear calls, but sometimes it is like that and players need to use their rugby intuition.
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“I don’t think there was a stand-out area for us – it was the overall display and that’s the most pleasing thing. Our defence was very good, our discipline was very good. The forwards did a good job against a well-drilled Ireland pack. We created opportunities in attack, too.”
While England failed to capitalise on a couple of overlaps in the opening minutes, Mike Brown was the most potent runner on show. The Harlequin latched onto a deft offload from captain Chris Rosbhaw in the second half to set up Danny Care’s try on the way to yet another man-of-the-match award.
Praising his full back’s perseverance and determination, Lancaster outlined Brown’s rapid rise to prominence in Test rugby.
“He’s always been a great attacker who beats the first defender. Where he’s had to work harder is on his ability to be first receiver in the attacking third – that’s grown his confidence as well. He’s rock-solid under the high-ball, too and he’s just playing with great self-belief.
“It often takes a while for a player to reach their peak – it might not happen until they are 26 or 27 years old. We’ve got a lot of players who are under that age and I’m hoping they continue to improve the way Mike has.
“It hasn’t come easy for him – he’s had to fight tooth and nail to get recognised as a club player, then a Saxons player and now as an international player. That drive he has – as someone who hasn’t been handed it straight away – has forged him into the player he is.”
Wales, a side Stuart Lancaster has never beaten as Head Coach, are now the only obstacle standing in the way of a first Triple Crown since 2003. Warren Gatland’s charges were rampant in Cardiff the last time the two teams met, crushing England’s Grand Slam aspirations with a 30-3 victory.
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Having redeemed a dismal 23-3 defeat to Ireland in Dublin with a 27-6 triumph over France last Friday, the visitors will be buoyant. There will not be much mystery about the way Wales play – their powerful phase-play is an indelible trademark – but that does not mean it will be easy to contend with.
“I think I’d have a direct gameplan too with the backline he’s got,” joked Lancaster. “You’ve got to stop set-piece ball clearly and deny them good ball. The gainline becomes important and how you defend against those guys.
“If they get go-forward it becomes harder and harder. We’ve defended well in the centre so far – Owen is good there – and our back three will be tested in the same way they were against Ireland.
“We’re still a long, long way away from the game although people are already talking about it. If I’m being honest, it’s going to be a long two weeks. A Sunday game makes it even worse because it’s an even longer period.
“I think the players are used to that now and they will enjoy a break this weekend before the build-up to the game starts next week. You don’t win games through emotion alone – you win them through being prepared and we will be ready for the game when it comes.”