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Have your say: Lancaster hits peak but already focuses on the future

England's head coach Stuart Lancaster. (Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire).

England's head coach Stuart Lancaster. (Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire).

  • by Dave Craven
 

Proud England head coach Stuart Lancaster described the record win over world champions New Zealand as the greatest achievement in his career but maintained neither he nor any of his players will get carried away by the historic triumph.

The Red Rose concluded their autumn internationals with a glorious 38-21 victory, the second-largest defeat inflicted on the gilded All Blacks in their illustrious history and one which stunned the rugby world on Saturday.

England’s feted opponents had won the previous nine meetings between the sides, last succumbing to them back in 2003, and were also on an unbeaten 20-match sequence.

But New Zealand crumbled in spectacular fashion against hosts inspired by the devilish running of Manu Tuilagi, Tom Wood’s relentless work up front and Owen Farrell’s assured fly-half display.

It was rich reward for Lancaster’s embryonic side who had come under fierce criticism for the manner in which they lost on previous weekends in tight circumstances against Australia and then South Africa.

After achieving his first triumph against one of the southern hemisphere heavyweights, the former Leeds Carnegie coach was asked where the feat ranked in his own personal accolades.

“It’s at the highest point,” he said, “because we’ve played the world champions who are on a 20-game (unbeaten) run and put in a performance where we’ve beaten them fair and square.

“New Zealand are a hugely talented, experienced team so to give that type of performance under that sort of pressure – the intensity and scrutiny we’d been under the previous two weeks – was just fantastic.”

Despite queries over some selections, Lancaster insists he never had concerns that his youthful England squad, which he took over on a permanent basis in March, might be heading on the wrong path.

“You feel the pressure and the need to get the win to give people real clarity of what we’re doing here, but I never doubted the direction we’re going in,” he added.

“We’ve got a strong environment and, after the previous two games, it particularly held together under pressure.

“I never really take it (criticism) personally but I think collectively it’s nice to be able to put a marker down and show all the rugby people – not just the media, players, ex-players, whoever else – that we’re a team going in the right direction.

“Relief is definitely the word, but also pride. I’m chuffed for the players more than anyone but the coaching staff have been fantastic too.”

The 43 year-old realises the key now is immediately repeating the same high level of display when the Six Nations kicks off at Twickenham against Scotland on February 2.

He is adamant his players, while enjoying the moment at the weekend, will not let this significant breakthrough go to their heads.

“As a coaching team we’re far too pragmatic and I’m far too Cumbrian for that (to happen) too,” he smiled.

“I can’t see it because during the week I was already thinking about what we’re going to plan for the (Six Nations) camp in Leeds and to make sure we maintain this standard. I sensed it building during training and we’ve got to make sure we hit that level when we meet for the Six Nations.

“(Captain) Chris Robshaw spoke to the players about that too right at the end of the match.

“We’ve always focused about where we were going to next. Certainly in my time we’ve never had a big defeat – we’ve only just lost closely, like against Wales and again in South Africa.

“It’s a couple of scores in it and I’ve never felt we’ve come off the field comprehensively beaten.

“It’s small margins at this level and from our point of view we’ve got to make sure we back up now.”

Wales saw their miserable run continue as they conceded a last-minute try to Kurtley Beale to lose 14-12 against Australia – a seventh straight defeat for the Six Nations champions which means they drop into the third batch of seedings for today’s 2015 World Cup draw.

Match report: Page 7.

 

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