Luther Burrell has vowed that England’s youthful backline can still develop the ruthless streak that will win the big prizes in 2015.
The Huddersfield-born England centre was as culpable as anyone of squandering try-scoring chances on Saturday as Stuart Lancaster’s misfiring side edged past Scotland to revive their Six Nations title chances.
The destiny of the championship is likely to be decided by points difference on Saturday, with England carrying a four-point advantage over Ireland, and 25 against Wales, into their game with France at Twickenham.
But that lead could have been far greater had England converted their 12 line breaks into more than just three tries against the winless Scots.
That inability to finish off Vern Cotter’s side could ultimately cost them in their Six Nations bid, and further down the line, hinder their chances of winning the World Cup later this year.
But Burrell insists his fellow backs are learning quickly and can deliver when it matters most.
Experienced full-back Mike Brown aside, England’s wings and centres Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph and Burrell have an average age of 23 and just 32 caps between them.
Wingers Nowell and Watson are both 21, while Burrell is the elder statesman at 27.
But he believes they are getting stronger with every passing Test.
“If you’re making 12 line breaks then, for me, you’re an exciting team,” said Burrell, who a year ago made the kind of impact on the international stage his midfield partner Joseph is enjoying this tournament.
“We’ve got some young players with a lot of gas out there and the more we gel together the better it will be. And we will get there.
“I enjoy playing with Jonathan. As you saw against Scotland, we switch our roles around in phase play, and we’ve got a good understanding of each other.
“I think that comes down to the coaches. Andy Farrell and Mike Catt are great with us, not just me and JJ, the whole backline, to try and get us ticking.
“And I think through the opportunities we had on Saturday, we showed some good stuff.”
Burrell’s moment to shine came within the first 30 seconds, when he broke a tackle in midfield and had only British and Irish Lions full-back Stuart Hogg blocking his path to the tryline.
Caught in two minds, Burrell was stopped as he tried to evade Hogg, but afterwards, offered an insight into what a player thinks in such a situation.
“It just comes down to that split-second decision, time does really go right before your eyes,” he said, with further competition for his place added yesterday when Sam Burgess, the Bath centre who started at Bradford Bulls, was called up by Lancaster for the first time ahead of France.
“For me, it was trying to look round and make the right decision. It was a 15, 20-metre pass off my left hand to Anthony.
“The Scottish player was slightly in the way. It was a 50-50 call – do I hold onto it, do I throw it?
“I held onto it, it got offloaded to Ben Youngs and a few phases later we scored anyway through JJ, so all was not lost.
“But you look back and think ‘could I have thrown it?’”
Such reflections, though, are better left to the end of the game and the review in the week, when Lancaster, Farrell and Catt will no doubt drum into their young flyers the need for better decision-making.
Because, as Burrell reveals, there is no time for self-assessment during a game.
“You’ve got to move on,” he said. “I went up to Anthony and asked if he reckoned it was on, and he said ‘it was a long pass, you could have done it, but it doesn’t matter because we still scored’.
“For me, it’s about moving on. I can’t dwell on it.
“A few moments later, Fordy put me through and I’m away but we get pulled back for a forward pass and it’s another opportunity gone. This week is about looking at how we convert those chances.”
Against a France team for which the term mercurial is an understatement, Burrell and England will have to concentrate on their own jobs as they seek a first Six Nations title since 2011.
While it would be the first silverware of Burrell’s England career, it is not the first time the bulldozing centre has tasted success.
The former Leeds Carnegie player and Huddersfield New College pupil helped Northampton win the Premiership and European Challenge Cup double last year. But lifting the Six Nations on Saturday would be a crowning moment.
“A Six Nations title would be right up there in terms of achievements and personal goals,” he said.
“For me, it’s one of the most exciting tournaments in the world so to potentially win it would be fantastic.
“It’s a massive motivation for me but it’s even bigger from a team emphasis.”