Lancaster insists hemisphere 'gap is closing'
July 8, 2012
Stuart Lancaster's England failed to win a Test in their recent series with South Africa © Getty Images
England coach Stuart Lancaster is convinced the supposed gulf in standards between the northern and southern hemisphere is reducing despite a largely disappointing set of results for Europe's finest during the recent international window.
Scotland claimed the only victory against the world's three best sides - New Zealand, Australia and South Africa - with a shock 9-6 success against the Wallabies with England's third Test draw with the Springboks the only other highlight of a one-sided tour season.
A much-fancied Wales slumped to a series whitewash at the hands of Australia while Ireland only flirted with history against a dominant All Blacks side. Elsewhere, France shared the spoils with Argentina while Italy also went down to the Pumas but Lancaster refuses to be too downbeat having seen his side climb to fourth in the IRB world rankings.
"As you saw with ourselves, Wales and Ireland we are all still a little bit behind but I feel the gap is closing," Lancaster told The Rugby Paper. "You have got to put the tour into context in that is comes at the end of an 11-month season if not 12 months. Some of the players went right the way through from a World Cup training camp last summer to the end of the South Africa tour.
"We can't be pleased with losing two and drawing one, but overall we have developed a lot of experience and lot of players have learnt and developed on the tour."
England, who named their latest Elite Player Squad earlier this week, will now re-group ahead of a testing autumn campaign that will see them tackle Fiji before entertaining all three southern hemisphere giants on successive weekends.
"A good break won't do us any harm and the games in November, when they all come to our place at the end of their season, will be a good benchmark," Lancaster said. "It was definitely a case of lessons learned across the board - from them and from us."
Lancaster also believes his side return with their repuatation enhanced despite the lack of a Test victory. "Previous tours and World Cups hadn't gone that well off the field so it was important that it went well in that regard, which clearly it did because we stayed off the front pages," he said.
"Compared to other tours we were relatively tight in terms of the 'leash' and we had to spend a lot of time together. But the players were brilliant. I can't speak highly enough about what they did. It was great to be able to go out there and come back, I think, with our reputation enhanced."
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