Tuesday March 12, 2013
England coach says Italy scare could lead to Slam
LONDON: England coach Stuart Lancaster hopes the shock of a scrappy 18-11 win over Italy will work in his side’s favour when they try to complete a Six Nations Grand Slam against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
“It (the win over Italy) won’t be good enough (to beat Wales) but equally, from a coaching point of view, it gives us plenty to go at,” said Lancaster.
“If we’d won easily, there may have been an element of complacency or over-confidence seeping in.
“There won’t be any of that,” added Lancaster, much praised for his down-to-earth approach after taking over from Martin Johnson following England’s wretched 2011 World Cup campaign.
England have never lost in 19 Tests against Italy and when the Azzurri last came to London two years they were on the end of a 59-13 thrashing.
Had England inflicted a similar Twickenham trouncing upon Italy on Sunday, they may have already had one hand on the Six Nations Championship trophy.
But their title, as well as Grand Slam, hopes are now in the balance ahead of their clash with defending champions Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
If Wales, who beat Scotland 28-18 at Murrayfield to remain in second place, defeat England by eight or more points they will retain their title.
Were Wales to win by seven points, the Championship would be decided on try count, with the Welsh currently two tries better off than England.
A “fresh” England side featuring five changes from the team who beat France, started strongly against Italy but butchered two possible tries in a match where the Azzurri’s Australia-born wing Luke McLean scored the only try of the game.
Fortunately for England, a mixture of Italian indiscipline and the boot of fly-half Toby Flood, who scored all their points with six penalties from as many attempts after coming in for the injured Owen Farrell, kept alive hopes of a first Red Rose Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003.
But Italy laid siege to England’s line in the closing stages and not until Courtney Lawes’s lineout steal three minutes from time could the hosts be sure of victory.
However, Lancaster insisted the confidence of his youthful side would remain unshaken by this escape.
“We know we have got to play better, we know Wales are playing well but equally we know what we need to do to fix things up and we are confident in the players we’ve got,” he said.
“We’ve still got a young team and we need to be a little bit more composed in key areas.”
That composure will be tested at the highest level on Saturday.
“It will be great to see where we are at.” — AFP