Plenty still to work on – Lancaster

ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster says his squad will not be allowed to “get carried away” as they begin preparations for a potentially decisive Six Nations encounter in Dublin.

England's Jonathan Joseph earned special praise from head coach Stuart Lancaster for his display against Italy (Picture: Joe Giddens).
England's Jonathan Joseph earned special praise from head coach Stuart Lancaster for his display against Italy (Picture: Joe Giddens).

They will this morning review the weekend’s 47-17 victory over Italy, a win that included half a dozen tries and kept them on course for a rare Grand Slam having already impressively prospered in Wales.

There is a lull now in fixtures with the game against Ireland – the only other country still able to complete the clean sweep – not being played until Sunday week.

With home fixtures against Scotland and France to follow, it is easy to see why the trip across the Irish Sea will be so consequential.

However, Lancaster believes previous victories on their travels, not least the recent success in a partisan Cardiff, will serve them well when it comes to taking on the reigning champions.

“The confidence we’ve gained down the years winning away in the Six Nations has been huge for us,” said the ex-Leeds Carnegie head coach, who took over ahead of the 2012 competition.

“We beat France away my first year, and should probably have done so last year if I’m being honest. We’ve won in Dublin before and now the Millennium so it definitely gives us confidence, but we know of course just how good a side they are. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a Championship-defining fixture as you’ve got two big games after that, too.

“But there is no doubt the game in Dublin has huge significance in relation to the championship. I have no doubt about that.

“We definitely won’t be getting carried away. There were lots of positives (against Italy); the scrum, some of our attacking play – JJ’s (Jonathan Joseph) second try was a great set-up by the backs – and some good counter-attack.

“But there is definitely plenty to work on going into that Ireland game.”

Primarily, in that regard, must be defence after England conceded three tries which were all worryingly simplistic in their execution, while they also started slowly, as also happened in Wales.

“We were just a bit soft on the edges,” admitted Lancaster.

“We pride ourselves on getting off the line and putting pressure on the opposition and we did that extremely well in the second half.

“It is more a mentality thing and we were just a little bit slow out of the blocks. That reflected in the first try.”

On their next opponents, he added: “Ireland are a very good side. We beat them at Twickenham last year in a very tight game.

“They kick a lot. They’ve some effective set-plays but a lot revolves around Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton’s kicking game so our back three will be critical in Dublin.”

On their last visit to the Aviva Stadium, England sealed their first win in Dublin in a decade with a gritty 12-6 success before essentially denying Ireland a Grand Slam last year by edging another colossal battle at HQ.

“It was ugly conditions two years ago with a lot of rain and a muddy pitch,” recalled Lancaster, whose side have yet to lose to the Irish under his command.

“We won the way we needed to win and that’s what it’s about.

“The pitch is a bit better now so, hopefully, it will be a dry day and we can play a different way.

“Last year was an unbelievable game of rugby. It was only 13-10, but there was a real Test match intensity to it and we were delighted to come out on top.”

Lancaster has praised try-scoring Billy Vunipola, the Saracens No 8 dropped during the autumn internationals but excelling on his return in the last two games while Ben Morgan (broken leg) is sidelined.

“I thought his contribution improved in the second half which is a real bonus for us,” said Lancaster, given previous concerns about the 22-year-old forward’s stamina.

“He was the guy giving us the go-forward, he was the guy putting the hits in defensively, he was the guy getting back onside and making a mess of the breakdown.

“I thought he had a great game, one of the best he’s had and he went the full 80.”