Lancaster refusing to panic

2014-11-15 21:34
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

London - England coach Stuart Lancaster has insisted there would be no panic after Saturday's 31-28 loss to South Africa at Twickenham made it five straight defeats for the 2015 World Cup hosts less than a year out from the showpiece tournament.

"We've played the top two sides in the world now and that's the benchmark for us," said Lancaster, appointed in 2012 following England's loss to France in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup.

"We've never said we're the finished article. When we (the coaching staff) took the roles in 2012 we knew we had to take a young group of players through some tough environments.

"Playing New Zealand first up was always going to be tough but we're not going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves," he added.

"I believe in the coaches, I believe in the players and I believe in what we're doing.

"When you've got a team like ours which has still got some development to do, we'll not panic or lose our nerve, and we'll not deviate from the course we're on," Lancaster said.

Although England were missing several British and Irish Lions forwards through injury at a rain-swept 'headquarters', their pack matched the Springboks at the set-pieces of scrum and line-out.

But a back division missing sidelined centres Manu Tuilagi and Luther Burrell was again found wanting, just at it had been in another three-point loss, the 24-21 defeat by world champions New Zealand with which England started their November international programme.

South Africa were 20-6 up early in the second half, following tries by centres Jan Serfontein and scrum-half Cobus Reinach, before England, capitalising on the sin-binning of Victor Matfield, saw prop David Wilson and replacement No 8 Ben Morgan driven over for scores that levelled the match at 20-20.

But despite still being a man down, the Springboks scored a try through flanker Schalk Burger before impressive fly-half Pat Lambie's drop-goal meant South Africa-born England centre Brad Barritt's 79th-minute try came too late to change the result.

England have now lost five Tests in a row -- albeit four were against the All Blacks -- and this is their worst run since suffering seven straight defeats in 2006.

Next weekend's Twickenham encounter with second-tier Samoa should snap that streak.

But if England lose their November finale at home to World Cup pool opponents Australia, it will mean they've beaten by all the 'Big Three' southern hemisphere nations in a matter of weeks.

And that would be a huge concern for England given they are likely to have beat at least two of those sides, if not all three, if they are to win the World Cup.

"We had a lot of ball but played slightly in the wrong areas of the field which put us under pressure," said Lancaster as he reflected on England's 12th straight Test against the Springboks without a win, a run comprising 11 defeats and a draw.

"You wouldn't criticise the players for their efforts but they need to be smarter and manipulate the field position more.

"It hurts to lose, and to lose at Twickenham, but the hurt can be turned into a positive."

Lancaster added: "This series is obviously about winning first and foremost and we haven't achieved that in the first two games.

"We've also talked about learning and developing as a group as we go into the World Cup.

"We need to narrow down in our minds who, when the white-hot pressure is on in 11 months' time, can deliver.

"That's when it really does matter."

Read more on:    stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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