- England Head Coach happy with improvements
- Lancaster outlines plans for New Zealand tour
Stuart Lancaster has declared himself delighted with England’s performance during their seven-try demolition of Italy on Saturday and says such a confident attacking display bodes well for the future, beginning with this summer’s tour of New Zealand.
A 52-11 win was not quite enough to wipe out Ireland’s superior points difference – allowing Joe Schmidt’s charges to take the RBS 6 Nations by beating France 22-20 in Paris – but England certainly signed off in style.
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Scores from Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, Mako Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi, Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown, who grabbed a brace, set them on their way to inflicting the Azzuri’s joint-seventh heaviest ever home defeat.
While admitting some slight irritation at failing to add the title to a first Triple Crown in 11 years, Lancaster preferred to dwell on the momentum produced by the thumping victory.
“I think winning in Italy was a really positive performance,” he said. “Seven tries and over 50 points – nobody has really done that before.
“We went into the game on the back of a very emotional game against Wales on Sunday and to back that up – with Sergio Parisse coming back for them at a sold-out Stadio Olimpico – was great. I was delighted.
“Performance is important but winning is as well. I’m probably being greedy but I’d like to take both if I’m being honest. Overall, the performances during the Six Nations have been strong across the board.
“We’ve not got everything right all the time but we’ve hit a very high percentage and that bodes well for the future.
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“We’ve improved our attacking game. There’s great shape and framework to the way we are playing. Our back-field coverage and decision-making about when to pass, kick or run has got better.
“Defensively, we’ve been strong and disciplined. Our lineout has been good although we would probably have wanted to score a couple more tries from driving maul. At scrum-time we’ve done well and people like Henry Thomas and Matt Mullan have come in and taken opportunities.”
Acknowledging the contribution of the less experienced members of his squad such as the backline trio of Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Luther Burrell – who boasted one cap between them prior to the competition opener at the Stade de France – Lancaster also reinforced the input of senior players.
According to the former schoolteacher, they have created a culture without hierarchy that cultivates togetherness without compromising ambition or individuality.
However, a trip to face the All Blacks in a three-Test series this June will present an altogether tougher challenge. Typically meticulous, Lancaster has left nothing to chance.
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“Preparation started last year when I went out there and we have got all the detail and itinerary done now. Team manager Tom Stokes is going out there for another reccy next week – everything is in place and it’s hugely exciting to be able to have three Tests there.
“The [non-Test] Canterbury Crusaders game is also going to be great and will create an opportunity for 35 to 40 players to go to find out what rugby’s all about.
“We’ll name an initial squad of about 25-27 players once we know who is going to be in the Aviva Premiership final because those in the final won’t be allowed to go initially.
“We’ll announce that group after the Premiership semi finals around May 20, then that that group will fly out later that week in preparation for the first Test on June 7. The Premiership finalists come out in the week of that first Test and are available for the second.”
“It depends who’s in the final but there is going to be experience in every position. We’ll be fine. It’s just going to be about challenging ourselves as coaches and making sure we get the selection right.”