Lancaster admits try-scoring concern
March 12, 2013
Toby Flood backed himself to score the try against Italy but was eventually held up © Getty Images
England coach Stuart Lancaster has conceded that he is concerned by his team's inability to turn territory and possession into tries.
England have scored just once since their four-try victory over Scotland in round one and despite many tipping Lancaster's men to roll over Italy at the weekend, they had to rely on the boot of Toby Flood to guide them to their 18-11 triumph.
Chris Ashton has come in for some criticism after his return of just two tries in 16 Tests, but Lancaster was quick to emphasise that the flyer is not being given any special treatment despite calls from some corners for the England winger to be dropped ahead of their Grand Slam showdown with Wales on Saturday.
"I don't think Chris has been given any special favours," Lancaster told reporters on Monday. "I don't buy the fact that he is badly out of form. No player had an error-free game on Sunday. Chris did what Chris does well and got into a position where a tip-on pass from Mike Brown would have seen him in under the posts.
"Most wingers would not get themselves in positions to do those things. He didn't quite get across the line but sometimes it is not his fault."
But while he has lent his backing to Ashton, Lancaster admits their attack needs re-focussing. Lancaster added: "We certainly did dip in effectiveness at the weekend but we did create opportunities. Finishing is the issue."
England are currently sweating on the fitness of Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes ahead of their trip to Cardiff while Owen Farrell is set to wrestle the fly-half berth back from Toby Flood. Ben Youngs may well start at scrum-half in place of Danny Care and the Leicester man insists that England have come on leaps and bounds since their final day loss to Ireland in 2011.
Martin Johnson's side were gunning for the clean sweep when they travelled to Dublin but they fell 24-8 and Youngs is adamant that England are in a better position now than they were two years ago. "There was more experience in the side two years ago, but the group we have now is more of a collective - we're all in it together," Youngs said. "There's a huge culture and ethos within the team that often steers you through. It's completely different to two years ago.
"I'd definitely rather be in the position we are now than two years ago. We're in a stronger position now. There are a lot of guys who haven't experienced this type of match yet, which is probably a good thing.
"They're at a good age when youth takes over, so you don't worry about it too much. Those of us who played against Ireland learnt a huge amount. Firstly, you need to make sure you don't get ahead of yourselves.
"You must also peak at the right time and don't let the occasion get to you. It's just about going out and winning, not playing with a particular style or scoring loads of tries. If you're presented with any opportunities you must take them because it will be fine margins and that's one of the key lessons we learnt from 2011."
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