Lancaster hails maturing England
February 10, 2013
England celebrate their win at the full-time whistle © PA Photos
England coach Stuart Lancaster was full of praise for his team after they overcame a stubborn Ireland side and difficult playing conditions to claim a first Six Nations victory in Dublin for a decade.
Owen Farrell led the way for England with four penalties to propel the visitors to a 12-6 triumph but he was aided by standout performances from Chris Robshaw, who was named Man of the Match, and fellow half-back Ben Youngs.
"I am delighted to get the win here today," said Lancaster, whose side also weathered the loss of flanker James Haskell to a yellow card in the second half. "When you have the conditions as they were it was going to be a tight game and down to small margins. To come here with a young side and show that kind of maturity to close the game out was hugely pleasing.
"It is a very difficult to play rugby against experienced players when we have lads on single figures in terms of caps, it is great testament to their maturity. As a test of character it was right up there because of the quality of the Ireland side and the ability to get the win."
Robshaw was also delighted to come through a bruising contest with his side's Grand Slam ambitions intact. "We are always fired up and the message today was 'no backward step', whether it is little off-the-ball stuff or going after them from minute one and we did that today. We came here to put a marker down and we will build on that," he said.
"We knew we hadn't won here in 10 years and we knew why. Today we got it spot on. It was all about defence at the end of the day and someone like Owen kicking the goals. That performance was definitely right up there."
In relentless rain, Ireland enjoyed most of the first-half possession but England defended superbly to claim a 6-0 lead at the interval. Ronan O'Gara landed two penalties to draw Ireland level and with, James Haskell in the sin-bin, England were suddenly up against it. But England maintained their composure and won that 10-minute period, with Farrell restoring their six-point advantage.
"I put that up there as an absolutely massive win, a huge win," said assistant coach Andy Farrell. "We have come to Ireland and we have played against a very good Ireland side.
"There was a tricky point in the third quarter but the way we composed ourselves and finished the game - our energy got better, our line speed got better, our composure - was a masterclass of how to handle that last 20 minutes.
"For a young side to play like that in a pressured situation against a team that has been there and done that, and been successful with it, is a credit to everyone."
Forwards coach Graham Rowntree insisted the players - and not the coaches - were the driving force behind an historic triumph. "The lads were desperate for the victory," said Rowntree.
"Coming into the Six Nations we had to back up that performance against New Zealand. We did that last week and then we had to do it away from home, because that defines you as a group of players. Going forward it will be fantastic to get that under their belts. They upped their game because they knew it would be a massive challenge."
Haskell was also a relieved man with the sin-binning proving to be a turning point - but in England's favour because they won that 10-minute period 6-3 with Farrell kicking two more penalties. "I think my life probably flashed before my eyes (when I was yellow carded)," Haskell said.
"I thought if we lost the game I would have to run straight out of the stadium! I was disappointed it was a yellow card. I didn't intentionally kick it but it was the third penalty in a row and someone was going to get it.
"The fact we won that period is credit to those on the field. It could have gone the other way, especially in Ireland against that quality of opposition but the boys dug really, really deep. I was just glad I got the opportunity to go back on. That victory was very big."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September