Wednesday 21 March 2018

Pressure on Lancaster to spare England's blushes

Mick Cleary

Stuart Lancaster only has to glance out of his Port Elizabeth hotel window to realise how precarious a balancing act sport can be, the surfers toppling off their boards into the Indian Ocean with the same regularity as his leading players are being felled by injury.

No sooner had Lancaster named Alex Corbisiero in the team for today's third Test at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium than the London Irish prop suffered a knee injury to leave Joe Marler with the task of holding up the loosehead side of the England scrum.

In isolation, the change is standard fare. In the context of this trip, the latest setback may prove critical. As soon as Corbisiero -- and lock Tom Palmer -- came on last week at Ellis Park, England's forward play found teeth. If England are to spare their blushes with a face-saving win in the final Test, then they have to find an edge in every single phase of play.

Corbisiero's absence makes that equation trickier to solve.

And if England were to lose again then the tour would be considered a failure, no matter that players are being developed for the future.

Of course, Lancaster has only been in situ for six months and has achieved notable things. However, with three Tests to come against the southern superpowers in November, he needs to get a notch on his belt.

The loss over the last few days alone of his captain, Chris Robshaw, scrum-half Ben Youngs, wing Ugo Monye and now Corbisiero, makes that task all the more difficult.

Lancaster has made changes of choice as well, looking to bolster England's ball-carrying options with the preference for Thomas Waldrom over Ben Morgan at No 8. James Haskell's elevation into the Chris Robshaw slot ought to generate some drive.

The centre pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph need to get hands on the ball and show what they have to offer, aware too that Alex Goode runs perceptive lines from the rear. South Africa, with three changes, have their own injury issues and are likely to be less structured. England have to make use of every advantage. If they don't, then it will not just be the surfers finishing all washed-up. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

South Africa -- G Aplon; J P Pietersen, J de Villiers (capt), W Olivier, B Habana; M Steyn, F Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, J Kruger, M Coetzee, J Potgieter, P Spies. Reps: A Strauss, W Kruger, F van der Merwe, R Kankowski, R Pienaar, B Basson, E Jantjies.

England -- A Goode; C Ashton, J Joseph, M Tuilagi, B Foden; T Flood, D Care; J Marler, D Hartley (capt), D Cole, T Palmer, G Parling, T Johnson, J Haskell, T Waldrom. Reps: L Mears, P Doran Jones, M Botha, P Dowson, L Dickson, O Farrell, B Barritt.

REF -- S Walsh (Australia).

South Africa v England,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 4.0

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