Wednesday 11 December 2019

Lancaster's quiet satisfaction as Morgan leads renaissance

Ben Morgan celebrates after crashing over the line to score England's opening try in their autumn international win over Australia at Twickenham. Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Ben Morgan celebrates after crashing over the line to score England's opening try in their autumn international win over Australia at Twickenham. Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Head coach Stuart Lancaster expressed satisfaction after England dealt with the pressure to claim a morale-boosting victory over World Cup opponents Australia at Twickenham.

Number eight Ben Morgan scored two tries and George Ford kicked 16 points as England finished the 2014 calendar year with a second successive win, following their worst run since 2006.

Defeats earlier in the autumn to New Zealand and South Africa had extended England's losing streak to five matches before the defeat of Samoa and a third win in 14 matches for Lancaster's men against the southern hemisphere's big three.

Lancaster, who played down the significance of victory against a Wallabies side who will be alongside England in Pool A at next year's World Cup, described the atmosphere in the home dressing room at Twickenham.

"Pleased. Quiet satisfaction," he said. "We were under pressure externally but internally we were rock-solid. We always believed in the plan, believed in the players."

It was by no means a straightforward win for England, but Bernard Foley's fine try and Will Skelton's score were not enough for the Wallabies to avoid a third straight loss.

Morgan's man-of-the-match display thrilled Lancaster, who believes the Gloucester number eight's position in the starting XV is secure.

"He has been one of the stand-outs over the last two games," Lancaster said.

"His inner belief has grown. He's developed as a player. He'll be a hard person to shift now."

Much was made of the dropping of Owen Farrell after a challenging autumn campaign, with Ford given an opportunity to impress at flyhalf. The Bath number 10 did not disappoint.

Lancaster gave a positive appraisal of his midfield but expects the availability of Manu Tuilagi to provide an extra dimension.

Australia have lost to France, Ireland and England in successive weeks, but chief coach Michael Cheika was not too downbeat as he rued Rob Horne's late missed opportunity when Israel Folau's pass failed to go to hand.

"There's not going to be any panic at our end," said the Wallabies' new head coach.

"There are some clear messages we need to sort out, but if we do that we will be well and truly competitive."

The areas for attention include the scrum, which provided the platform for England's win.

"We need to change our technique, change our strategy. Perhaps we're just a bit too honest in the scrum," said Cheika.

The death of cricketer Philip Hughes has made for a difficult week in Australian sport and his passing was recognised with a minute's applause.

"It was obviously a very sombre mood throughout the week," captain Michael Hooper said.

"To see how much respect the guy has got and how many people have cared about it is fantastic.

"It was a different experience to be a part of and a special one."

Scorers: England: B Morgan 2 tries; G Ford 2 cons, 4 pens. Australia: B Foley try, con pen; W Skelton try; Q Cooper con.

England: Brown; Watson, Barritt (Farrell 62), Twelvetrees, May; Ford, Youngs (Wigglesworth 71); Marler (Mullan 55), Hartley (Webber 72), Wilson (Brookes 61), Attwood, Lawes (Kruis 55), Wood (Haskell 78), Robshaw, Morgan, Kruis (Yarde 79).

Australia: Folau; Speight (Beale 64), Ashley-Cooper, Toomua, Horne; Foley (Cooper 46), Phipps (White 50); Slipper (Robinson 68), Faingaa (Hanson 73), Kepu (Alexander 52), Carter, Simmons (Jones 41), McMahon, Hooper, McCalman.

Referee: J Garces (Fra).

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