Frustrated Lancaster looks ahead
Sun, 09 Feb 2014 09:12
We're still in it
England coach Stuart Lancaster refused to get carried away after watching his side revive their Six Nations Championship title hopes with a dominant 20-0 Calcutta Cup win away to Scotland at the weekend.
And he warned England would need to improve when they faced Ireland, who've now won both their opening Championship matches, beating Scotland 28-6 and defending champions Wales 26-3, at Twickenham on February 22.
The 132nd edition of rugby union's oldest international fixture was also one of the most lopsided, with a desperately dire Scotland failing to score a point against England for the first time since 1978.
Yet although England scored tries in Edinburgh through centre Luther Burrell and fullback Mike Brown, they also botched a few potential scores in a second half where they managed just seven points.
England flyhalf Owen Farrell also missed three penalties on an awkward day for goal-kickers, with Murrayfield's already parasite-infested pitch made worse by driving rain.
"We were pleased with a lot of aspects, but are frustrated that we didn't convert more of our opportunities because we dominated the second half," Lancaster said.
"There were chances there that we didn't take and we definitely have regrets over the points we left out there."
However, he added: "We played some really good stuff in difficult conditions. Scotland had to defend desperately."
Burrell's try was his second in as many Tests after his debut effort in England's 26-24 loss away to France in Paris and Lancaster was pleased by his evolving midfield partnership with Billy Twelvetrees.
"The work that [assistant coaches] Andy Farrell and Mike Catt have done with Luther and Billy is really paying off," Lancaster said.
"The timing and number of options going into the line were excellent and Luther's try was a good case in point.
"They're going well as a partnership, especially given that they've only trained together for two weeks and have played twice.
"They'll need to be on top of their game against the Irish centres [Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy], who are clearly world class.".
Lancaster insisted England had maintained faith in their Six Nations title chances despite an agonising loss in Paris where, having fallen 3-16 behind early on they led 24-19 only to succumb to Gael Fickou's converted try three minutes from time.
"Even though we lost to France we always felt we're still in it," Lancaster said.
"It does set us up for an important game against Ireland. Ireland have played two, won two and have played really well. But we're confident also."
Scotland coach Scott Johnson, having seen his side beaten comprehensively by both Ireland and England, was well-placed to assess their merits ahead of a match which could have a huge bearing on the destiny of this season's title.
"We fell into England's strengths a little bit, we've got some naivete in our team," Johnson said.
"They are very, very different sides. It depends on the conditions and possession. If it opens up, I can see Ireland doing some damage. If it closes down I think England can do some damage," the Australian added.
England captain Chris Robshaw paid tribute to his team who had to overcome the problems posed by playing on a very soft pitch.
"It was a tough shift by all the guys in tough conditions," he said.
"We weren't too happy with our attack - I felt we left some points out there - and these are things we need to keep learning.
"We got away with it today, we might not get away with it next time."
England bounced back well after the bitter disappointment of losing to a late try by the French last Saturday.
"It's been a tough start," Robshaw said.
"We've had two weeks on the road and we're looking forward to getting back to Twickenham."
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