Lancaster to harness spirit of South Africa
February 5, 2013
England went toe-to-toe with the Springboks in front of their passionate crowd in the summer © PA Photos
England coach Stuart Lancaster insists that his side are fully prepared for the cauldron that awaits them in Dublin on Sunday.
Both Ireland and England recorded victories in the opening weekend of Six Nations action and Saturday's clash in the Aviva Stadium is shaping up to be an early title decider following France's shock opening-round defeat to Italy. But England have not fared well in Dublin having last won a Six Nations match there in 2003.
Two years ago England arrived at Lansdowne Road hoping to complete the Grand Slam, only to face a performance of ferocity from the Irish that flattened them 24-6. Lancaster is eager to distance his side from that result - there are likely to be only five survivors in England's starting XV.
And the England coach claims that his players will harness the experiences they gained during their summer tour of South Africa ahead of their clash on Sunday.
"This is a completely different team going to Dublin from 2011, with a completely different mentality," he said. "That said, playing the Irish in Dublin is a unique challenge. We've got to be able to deal with the emotion of the occasion and still think clearly, making good, accurate decisions.
"That will be the true test of our maturity. It's a great challenge for us. Experiences like Johannesburg have definitely made us stronger. In all three of the Tests in South Africa the players learned some lessons about what it takes to get there - we all did. Mentally, we've got to be in the right place but that comes from the confidence we build in training."
England name their team on Thursday, with the centre partnership once again the source of greatest discussion following Manu Tuilagi's return to fitness after four weeks out with an ankle injury. Lancaster hinted that he will restore Tuilagi to the starting XV, forcing him to drop either Billy Twelvetrees or Brad Barritt.
Twelvetrees enjoyed a fine Test debut in Saturday's 38-18 victory over Scotland, adding a new dimension to the midfield, while Barritt offers defensive steel that the management are reluctant to lose.
"I watched Manu through the course of last week, I could see he was back to running and changing direction," Lancaster said. "He has missed a few games, but I'm confident we'll be able to use him after a full week's training. Billy played well against Scotland and Brad's contribution as always was positive, but Manu brings a unique set of skills and attributes to the game and the team, as we saw in his performance against the All Blacks."
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