British & Irish Lions
Lancaster looking for development
Tue, 19 Mar 2013 15:47
When you look at the campaign we made good progress
England coach Stuart Lancaster is looking to his side's forthcoming tour of Argentina and the British and Irish Lions series in Australia to find out more about the composure of a youthful group of players who suffered a collective loss of nerve in failing to complete a Grand Slam against Wales.
Saturday's humbling 3-30 loss, the heaviest of Lancaster's reign, denied England both a clean sweep and the Six Nations Championship, the Welsh retaining the title they won last season to the delight of a raucous crowd of over 74,000 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.
Several days on, England's frustration with the rulings of Kiwi-born Australian referee Steve Walsh at the scrum and breakdown was still evident, but Lancaster accepted his side remained a work in progress when it came to handling the pressure of a big occasion away from Twickenham.
But with a number of his players set to be involved in Lions action against the Wallabies, with the next best tier on their way to Argentina for what is sure to be a tough series with the Pumas, Lancaster believes the post-season tour schedule will provide him with useful feedback ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England.
"The next step is for our best players to go to the Lions and see how they develop under that pressure, which will be significant, and for [England assistant coach] Mike Catt and I to take another group of players to Argentina and make sure we get that depth of talent we really need to see emerge," Lancaster said on Tuesday.
"It will be critical for us because we go to a hostile environment and put ourselves under pressure. That is why we want midweek games as well.
"It gives us a chance to work with a wider group of players and see which players can make the transition from club to country and play and deliver in a hostile environment."
That ability to "deliver in a hostile environment" was sorely lacking in Cardiff where England, six points down at the interval, were overwhelmed in the second half.
Lancaster has been criticised for dispensing entirely with the services of a senior group of players following England's miserable World Cup campaign in New Zealand, but he insisted Saturday's reverse was part of a necessary learning curve for an inexperienced squad.
"When we made the transition from the 2011 World Cup squad through to where we are now, we wanted to find out more about the players and we did that, particularly in the last game," Lancaster said.
"We were tested at the highest level. The final 20 minutes was the most disappointing thing about the game, to let it slip away like that.
"At 9-3 we were still in the game. We put the ball straight into touch and had a period of defence which resulted in 12-3.
"There was then a turnover at the breakdown - which we still need clarification on - and that was the tipping point in the game [because it led to Wales' first try].
"Whatever happened in that breakdown it was disappointing to lose composure and let the game slip away."
Nevertheless, Lancaster was still encouraged by the fact England - who haven't enjoyed a clean sweep of their major European rivals since 2003, when they also won the World Cup - had at least put themselves in a position to win a Grand Slam.
"Overall when you look at the campaign we made good progress," he said. "We have a good group of players and we played some tough games during the Six Nations and to put ourselves in a position to win it was hugely pleasing."
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