- England trio explain how Leeds objectives have been met
- “We’re at a further level than we were last year” – Lancaster
Stuart Lancaster says England are in a better place than this time last year after a second successive pre-RBS 6 Nations training camp in Leeds.
Rewind to January 2012 and the then interim Head Coach arrived with 15 changes to his Elite Player Squad and a new coaching team, just 11 days before an opening match against Scotland at Murrayfield.
With consistency in selection and more time together, Lancaster believes the collective understanding of the game plan and the synergy between the players is vastly improved, with Scotland coming to Twickenham on Saturday, February 2.
“It was a completely new team [last year], new interim coaches, a completely new group of players and we’ve got a lot more experience now,” said Lancaster, after running the final training session of the week in front of 6,000 fans at Headingley Carnegie Stadium.
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“But we’re still a young team as well, the 206 caps against the All Blacks still means we’ve got a long way to go. Time together is important, particularly working on your basics of defence, set piece and attacking system. We’re at a further level than we were but we’ve just got to execute on the field now.”
For Owen Farrell, who is still only 21, there is a greater individual and collective confidence, with genuine bonds off the field which translate into a better rapport on the field.
“Last year was starting from scratch but as you can see from the way we’ve trained today, we’re definitely not starting from scratch this time, we’ve hit the ground running,” said the Saracens fly half.
“This time last year I came in and I’d not even met half of the boys so to come in this time and know everybody and know we are a good group of lads only going to help the team. We all get along and that shows on the training pitch and the field.”
Scrum half Danny Care, who grew up just a few miles away from the stadium in Adel, said the balance of training has been right to meet the objectives set out by Lancaster: refresh minds from a tactical and technical point of view; get some bumps and bruises out of the way; and to simply spend some time together.
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“We’ve trained hard this week, we haven’t flogged ourselves but we’ve done enough and we’re ready for a big week, we’ll ramp it up with it being a Test week,” said the Harlequins No.9.
“We needed to get back into the England mind set, there are 12 or 15 styles of play with everyone from the different clubs so we’re now in the England frame of mind and hopefully we can back up that New Zealand game.”
The group concur that targets have been met ahead of five Test matches in seven days but Farrell, with a level-headedness belying his years, sounded a note of caution, with a hard week of work at Pennyhill Park in the offing.
He added: “We’ve made a good start but I still think there is a long way to go, there’s a week to really concentrate and put on the detail and get it right for the Scotland game.”
Wise words, given that fact that while England are unbeaten in five matches against the Auld Enemy: after a 15-15 draw in the 2010 clash at Murrayfield, England’s margin of victory has only been by a single score (six in 2011, four in 2011 and seven in 2012).