Lancaster eyes World Cup boost
March 14, 2013
England head coach Stuart Lancaster in relaxed mood ahead of his side's Six Nations showdown with Wales © Getty Images
Six Nations Permutations
England coach Stuart Lancaster believes victory over Wales in their Six Nations title showdown in Cardiff on Saturday could lay the foundation for a successful assault on the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Lancaster's side are chasing a first Grand Slam since 2003 but the hosts can also claim the championship glory with a narrow seven-point likely to be enough for them to reclaim the northern hemisphere crown. The two sides will also meet in the pool stages of the World Cup with their latest mouth-watering match-up set to be a fascinating precursor.
"It would give you that inner confidence and belief that you can win in big games and finals," Lancaster told PA Sport. "It's a brilliant experience for the players and it will certainly help us with that long-term plan. The reality is that come 2015 we're going to be playing Wales in a huge pool game. The more experience you can get of playing under the pressure of these type of games the better for the players."
England have won 12 Grand Slams but they have never clinched one in the Welsh capital and Lancaster believes the stage is set for a thrilling finale. "I don't think (there is a better fixture), not in the context of where we are," Lancaster said. "Both sides have got the chance to win the championship, so effectively it's a shootout. In that sense to go to Cardiff and try and win a Grand Slam is a great test."
England go into the match at full strength after Joe Launchbury (elbow) and Geoff Parling (shoulder) passed fitness tests yesterday to keep their places in the second row while Owen Farrell returns to the No.10 shirt. Farrell missed the win against Italy with a thigh strain but he has been brought straight back, with Lancaster expecting his "unique" fly-half to thrive in the Millennium Stadium cauldron.
"He has what very few young players have particularly in the fly half position - that big game temperament and the ability to rise to the occasion," Lancaster said. "He doesn't seem fazed by an occasion. Indeed the bigger the occasion, the more he seems to step up. He has been outstanding in terms of providing leadership and direction to the team. The execution of his core skills - goal-kicking, line-kicking, his passing ability, his strong defence - has been excellent."
Farrell himself has played down fears over his temperament and is prepared for a tough test of his credentials. "I need to concentrate on my job and if I don't I will get found out," he said. "Everybody tries to get to the half-backs. I will just concentrate on my job.
"The thing is with being a 10, you have to be one step ahead. When we are in defence you have to bring energy, talk a lot, get people off the line and get stuck in - but when it comes to attack you have to be one step ahead. That's all what I'm concentrating on at the weekend.
"I think the bigger the game is, the more you've got to concentrate and focus on your job," Farrell said. "You can't get lost in the occasion. A lot of players talk about big games and they go quickly because you're that lost in the game and caught up in what is happening on the field, not what's happening around it.
"You're focusing on what is in front of you. That's tough, but it's what international rugby is all about. People will be walking off this pitch mentally drained at the weekend. Anybody who plays in the Six Nations wants to win a Grand Slam and wants to play on the big stages and to be involved in the biggest games," Farrell said.
"I feel like the more we are together and the more people talk, the tighter we get. We are a really tight-knit group and we really work hard for each other. Everybody pushes each other in a good way. It is a brilliant place to be because that.
"That shows in games - the last 10 minutes against Italy when we were defending on our line and in our own 22, the boys were outstanding. That's what we will take into this game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby