Six Nations

Lancaster hails young guns grit

2015-02-07 09:07
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

Cardiff - England coach Stuart Lancaster was left revelling in his reshuffled, young side's grit to claw back a 10-point deficit and choke Wales out for a gripping 21-16 victory in the opening Six Nations match on Friday.

England had been knocked pre-match by the absence through injury of centres Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt and Kyle Eastmond, flyhalf Owen Farrell, the lock trio of Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and Geoff Parling, backrowers Tom Wood and Ben Morgan, and prop David Wilson.

The team featured only nine survivors from the side that started the 26-17 victory over Australia at Twickenham in the climax to the November programme, and just five from the XV thrashed 30-3 by Wales in Cardiff two years ago.

Lancaster dubbed that Six Nations loss in the Welsh capital in 2013 the "lowest point" of his coaching career", but he cut a different figure after Friday's victory at the Millennium Stadium.

"Obviously we're just delighted to get the win, first and foremost. Being 10-0 down we closed the gap... to go in at half-time at 16-8 we gave ourselves some work to do," he said.

"We upped our intensity and to get 13 unanswered points in the second half was great and for a young side to come here and get the win is really pleasing."

Youthful Bath duo Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph scored England's two tries after Wales had shot out to an early lead, flyhalf George Ford knocking over a conversion and three penalties to seal the win.

"To go 10-0 down to a team as good as Wales is a big hole and when you have a goalkicker the quality of Leigh Halfpenny knocking them over, it always gives you a little bit of pressure to chase the game," Lancaster said.

"But we held our nerve and we played the right field position and then our power runners and physicality that we brought in the second half and off the bench made the difference."

Lancaster said he believed the confidence-boosting win had no bearing on the World Cup England will host and in which they have been drawn in a pool along with Wales, Australia and Fiji, with only two qualifying for the knock-out phase.

"It's all about the here and now," he said, with the England-Wales pool clash set for September 26 in Twickenham. "We've got four more games of the Six Nations to go, as have Wales.

"We've got World Cup camps to prepare for, we've got decisions to make going into the August 31 naming of the 31-man squad.

"Today was all about getting that victory for that young team away from home, it's great for us in terms of belief."

Lancaster added: "I remember being interviewed two years ago (after the 30-3 loss) and it was the lowest point of my coaching career without a doubt and today's win is up there as the highest point."

It was special, he said, "because of the pressure and emotion leading up to it, the chance we had to get new combinations together".

"Whether it's one point, two points, five points, it was all about getting the win and we're delighted to have got it."

Assistant coach Andy Farrell, however, grumbled at the final score.

"The scoreline didn't really do us justice," the former Wigan and Britain rugby league star said.

"There were three tries left out there we could have scored and that would have been just."

Read more on:    england  |  six nations  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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