England v Fiji, November 10
Lancaster out to replicate All Blacks' blueprint
November 9, 2012
England boss Stuart Lancaster insists it is a case of evolution and not revolution from this point on © PA Photos
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has no qualms about sending out the most inexperienced side of his tenure against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday as he looks to replicate New Zealand's recipe for continued success.
Lancaster's 23-man squad for his side's opening autumn international boasts just 284 caps with uncapped hooker Tom Youngs set to start the game and fellow rookies Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, both just 21-years-old, named on the bench. The starting XV features 11 players with 13 caps or fewer with fly-half the most experienced player with 50 caps to his name but Lancaster is not concerned and insists that the Test match novices will serve England well this weekend and beyond.
"When I took over in December we needed to bring through a new generation of players because we had a significant number of the World Cup squad who were post-30," Lancaster said. "Someone said the All Blacks don't go through that period of renewal, it is a gradual drip-feed of new players - and that is where we should be from now on.
"I don't see England in the next eight to 12 years going through the sort of change we have had to go through. The Fiji game is the start of a huge four-week journey for us that will test us in every way. It is about putting a marker down at the start of this four-game series.
"The inexperience is not a concern or a risk because we delivered good performances in the Six Nations and that experience will grow with every game. I have based the decisions on the form of the players in the Premiership and in Europe. This is not a youth policy. No-one could argue Joe Launchbury is a development pick - he is the form lock at the moment and he deserves his chance."
Saturday's game represents the latest step towards the 2015 Rugby World Cup and Lancaster is confident his youngsters will mature in time for the sport's showpiece event. "By the time 2015 comes around they will hopefully have 30-odd caps under their belt and we end with a team that is peaking with the age between 25 and 30," Lancaster said.
"Youngsters now are far more technically prepared than ever before. Physically they are far better prepared. When you look at the gym there is no difference between what Joe Launchbury can do and Tom Palmer can do.
"If anything the younger players haven't had the injuries and the other problems associated with playing for a long time at the highest level. Mentally they are robust. They are good professionals who understand what it takes. It is different."
Expectation appears high among England fans with the 82,000-capacity Twickenham selling out for the first time for a clash against a second tier nation that will be followed by games against Austraila, South Africa and New Zealand.
"People quite rightly expect us to go out and win every game. That is right with the way we have developed as a team," he said. "We have to manage the expectancy but also deal with it. The All Blacks have an expectation to win every time and they continue to do so. We are not there yet but it will be a good test in the next four weeks to see if we are.
"It would be great to get off to a good start but you only have to look at their two centres (Leicester's Vereniki Goneva and Exeter's Sireli Naqelevuki), they are two of the most dangerous players we have in the Premiership at the moment," he said. "Put those together in the centre, we will have our hands full if we play loosely and give them the freedom of Twickenham. But we definitely want to get off to a good start because we know what is coming around the corner."
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