France is first step to winning silverware, says Lancaster

StUART Lancaster has challenged his players to turn their improvement into silverware – starting with the forthcoming Six Nations.

Stuart Lancaster

Lancaster’s 20-match reign is littered with big wins against New Zealand, Australia and France, but trophy-winning success has eluded them.

In the two Six Nations campaigns he has led, England have fallen one match short of a grand slam title, losing on both occasions to Wales.

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Winning the title this year will be difficult given they play three of their five matches away from Twickenham, with their first assignment in Paris against France next Saturday, followed by Scotland in Edinburgh the week after.

Lancaster, the former Leeds player and head coach, said: “We’ve drawn with South Africa, beaten Australia and beaten New Zealand, so our confidence and self-belief are growing.

“As with all players and teams, you want to win things. You want to win trophies and series. That’s the ambition for everyone.

“We’ve had some good results since losing to Wales last year, but we all want to win things – be it series victories or the Six Nations.

“We have an eye on the World Cup, of course, but we would never treat a Six Nations game, especially one against France in Paris, as any sort of warm-up.

“It starts and ends against France – you don’t start thinking about what you’ll do against Italy in the fifth game or Wales in the fourth game.

“But the challenge facing us is tough because we have three games away, the first two against France and Scotland away.”

England have been highlighted by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre as joint-favourites with Wales as the likely winners of the title.

But Lancaster remains cautious.

“I never think in that way. I focus all my energy on how we’ll beat France,” he said.

“I don’t rank us alongside Wales or Scotland, I’m respectful of every team that we face.

“First up we have France away and we could see during the autumn that they are an improving team. They will have had a week’s camp, will be rested, prepared and highly motivated to play England in France.”

Lancaster, meanwhile, has been hailed a visionary by his head of athletic performance Matt Parker, the man he lured from British Cycling.

The 38-year-old is preparing for his second Six Nations and after almost 13 months in his post, has detected similarities between cycling guru Dave Brailsford and Lancaster.

“Stuart and Dave are both very strong leaders,” said Parker.

“Stuart has a very clear direction, he knows what he wants.

“What he’s instilled in the culture of the whole group feels like high performance.

“They’re both visionary, inspirational and incredibly hard-working.”