- Stuart Lancaster outlines the need to play with speed in Paris
- Head Coach impressed with contributions from young wings in training
Stuart Lancaster believes England must play with speed and guile if they are to emerge from the Stade de France with a second successive victory.
France Coach Phillipe Saint-Andre has given an insight into how Les Blues may approach the RBS 6 Nations opener on Saturday by naming a forward-dominated match day 23, with the likelihood of a six-two split of forwards and backs on the bench.
While ready to front-up to whatever France throw at them physically, manoeuvring their large, heavy forwards around the pitch is a priority for Lancaster, as he explained to RFUtv.
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“The six-two split on the bench is probably the biggest thing [to take from their 23], we know it’s going to tough up front as that is what Italy did against us last year,” said the England Head Coach.
“If we play quick and with tempo we have backline options who can come on and add a point of difference for us.
“We held our composure under some pretty intense pressure [on our last visit to France] and all three tries came from turnover ball or a counterattack, so it wasn’t from set-piece tries that gave us the win.”
Much has been made in the build-up to the game of how Toulouse – with seven players available to Saint-Andre for Saturday’s clash – methodically over-powered Saracens in the Heineken Cup with a display of brutal physicality and cool efficiency.
But Lancaster says it is too simplistic to focus on just one team or one particular result and that international sides must have their own identity drawn from several club sides to be successful.
“There have also been some performances from the French clubs teams that have had a fantastic offloading game and free-flowing, running rugby,” he said.
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“The trick for all international coaches is to harness the club personnel into a national team and there’s no magic wand to do that, it’s through hard work, good relationships, culture and spending time together. I’m sure France will be helped in that regard by having an extra week of preparation.”
Lancaster will name his match day 23 tomorrow evening and then reveal the composition of his starting XV on Thursday morning at 10:25am, live on RFU.com. Citing a number of credible examples such as Mako Vunipola or Joe Marler at loose head and Dylan Hartley or Tom Youngs at hooker, he said there has “been a debate over every position” within the coaching group.
While thinking about selection, Lancaster is pleased with the contributions from the young players in his squad and what that demonstrates about the culture he has worked so hard to establish.
With 11 players included in his 35-man RBS 6 Nations training squad from outside his Senior Elite Player Squad, Lancaster used the examples of wings Jonny May (23), Jack Nowell (20) and Anthony Watson (19) to illustrate his point.
“The important thing for me is that they feel settled and they feel they can contribute without having to go through some sort of graded process to earn their right to speak,” he said. “It’s a team where there is no hierarchy and young lads should be able to come in, contribute and be up to speed straight away.”
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England’s fabulous 24-22 victory at the Stade de France two years ago was based on solidity at the set-piece and commitment and organisation in defence, augmented by sensational try-scoring breaks from Manu Tuilagi, Ben Morgan, to lay on a try for Ben Foden, and Tom Croft.
Recalling those tries with relish, Lancaster knows individual moments of brilliance are what it takes to win the showpiece matches.
“It any sport it is the players who create something out of nothing which ultimately win the big games,” he added. “New Zealand have shown that this year in the games that they have won.
“After we scored the third try [in 2012] through Tom Croft, France still had an opportunity to come back and almost won the game as well. You can never write them off, at the point when Tom scored there was a big gap between us but one of the biggest lessons to take is you can never relax against the French.”