Lancaster has faith as squad get set for Murrayfield

There are few arenas in world rugby as intimidating as Murrayfield.

The cacophony of sound as Flower of Scotland reverberates around the stands is both deafening and spine-tingling.

The noise cascades down the banks of seats onto a Murrayfield pitch that often represents a battlefield.

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And when England are in town that is amplified 10-fold.

It is just two weeks until England set foot in Edinburgh for their Six Nations opener.

They will do so under the guidance of an interim head coach in Stuart Lancaster who has proved more than adept at stemming the negative tide emanating from New Zealand and the World Cup.

English rugby needed positive vibes, and the pro-active Lancaster has provided them.

His first acid test, though, will come 14 days from now when Scotland host England.

Lancaster’s bold selection policy for his Six Nations squad – 13 changes, 11 uncapped players and a lowering of the average age to 25 – will be put under the microscope at Murrayfield.

He wants to play an enterprising brand of rugby, with his backs communicating well and running incisive, intricate lines from deep.

Sceptics have looked at his first game in charge and suggested such a ploy will be hard to adopt in a fixture traditionally reserved for gnarled forwards and a clever kicking game.

They suggest this battle is the perfect game for streetwise, experienced campaigners, and that Lancaster’s young guns will wilt.

But the former Leeds player and coach is not afraid to blood his youngsters – former Leeds player Calum Clark and exciting Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell among them – in such a white hot atmosphere.

“We’re not sending a team of Under-23s or Under-24s to Murrayfield,” said Lancaster of players whose experience in the Heineken Cup, he believes, will sustain them in international rugby.

“Clearly we recognise the challenge ahead of us, we are going into the Six Nations against a majority of sides that have stability and consistency.

“We’re under no illusions as to what faces us. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge.

“We want to grow a group of players for the future.

“What we want to do every year is promote the best Under-20s; two, three or four every year so we’ve got that pipeline of talent.

“We don’t want to be in a situation where we’ve got a group of older players and a group of younger players and nothing in between.”

Lancaster will begin shaping his new look England in Leeds on Monday, on day one of a back-to-earth five-day training camp at West Park Leeds RFC, at Bramhope.

Rebuilding a culture is his first priority, following the collapse of discipline and professionalism in New Zealand.

A host of respected sporting figures are scheduled to talk to the players – from the country’s leading rugby league stars Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield, to cycling guru Dave Brailsford.

“The first message will be that we’ve got a fantastic opportunity,” continued Lancaster. “With any team you build a culture on strong foundations.

“We want to use the first week as a really important building block.”

Having made such a good impression in transforming the external perspective of the England team, he now has to get them playing his way, and winning games.

The time frame to impress the Rugby Football Union about his credentials has been reduced from the five games of the Six Nations to just the opening two or three, following the announcement this week that the governing body has a headhunting firm in place to have their new head coach ready to take them into the summer tour to South Africa by the end of the championship.

Injuries – that common unavoidable variable for all coaches – have already begun to undermine Lancaster with potential captain Tom Wood being ruled out for the first two games.

But he will not be wrapping his players in cotton wool over the coming days.

Lancaster wants to breed champions who are led by a large number of leaders, with key men accountable for positional groups – such as the midfield – regardless of age.

The important decision of who will wear the captain’s armband at Murrayfield will be made at the end of this week.

“We’ll keep open minded and see how it pans out,” said Lancaster.

“We’ll work on the detail, who’s going to start, who’s going to kick, once we get to the end of camp.”

For the future of England’s rugby team, short-term and long-term, this week in Leeds will be pivotal.