Wednesday 22 May 2019

'The reality is this team should peak in 2019' - Stuart Lancaster has World Cup warning for England's rivals

England have been in ominous form during the 2019 Six Nations. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
England have been in ominous form during the 2019 Six Nations. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Des Berry

It has to be frustrating for Stuart Lancaster to see how Ireland are using or not using Leinster’s template in the Six Nations.

The direct, confrontational nature of Ireland’s play, winning a metre here and there, with little or no off-loading, is hard on the players and not too easy on the eye either.    

Of course, the Leinster senior coach has been there, right smack in the middle of the Six Nations, as England’s lead man for four campaigns from 2011 to 2015.

"I have always found the start of the Six Nations is always tricky to get cohesion, because you’re bringing players together, players from different philosophies and different systems into one team.

"I think with Ireland that’s what it looks like, at the moment," he said.

"Joe Schmidt alluded to it in the press conference after the game, we’re not quite into our flow yet and that’s how it looks."

Pressed further for an opinion on the quality of what he sees from Ireland, Lancaster takes a step back into the overall context. 

"I think it’s less about what I think, it’s more about the challenge of international coaching is quite different.

"With club coaching, you’ve got the players day-in, day-out, week-in, week-out, playing your way, so it’s easier to create that.

"With international coaching, Munster play one way, Connacht play another way, Ulster play another way and Leinster play another way.

"You have to marry those all together."

Well, Eddie Jones has managed to bring all the various strands of English Premiership and plat them into one cohesive unit.

As far as Lancaster is concerned, this has always been more a likelihood than a possibility.

It was only a matter of when, not if, England got themselves working in harmony. 

And it all began at the Aviva just over two weeks ago when Ireland were muted and England magnificent.

"I tried to box myself into coaching mode and look at it analytically, you know, 'what would I have done if?'" said Lancaster.

"You can’t help but look at both sides and have a pull to want both teams to do well.

"You are coaching a lot of the Ireland boys and you are hands-on with them day-in, day-out for the last two-and-a-half years."

In many ways, Lancaster sowed the seeds to the bloom of England with the cluster of young, inexperienced men introduced to international rugby.     

"Equally, when I see particularly the likes of Henry Slade and guys like that who were all on the pathway, the starting point.

"All the lads who are on 50 caps were on zero caps when I started," he said.

"To see the growth of the team, I think we said from the start that the reality is this England team should peak in 2019.

"It was always a race against time for 2015.

"But you could see the age profile, the quality of the players and the experience they would have by 2019.

"It should be their time," he said.

As it stands, England are on course to complete a Grand Slam with Wales the main obstacle in their way.

"If you are sat playing three home games in any particular year, you are always going to have the advantage. 

"Then, if you win one of your away games, it puts you in a strong position.

"Leading into Wales and England, that is obviously a pivotal game now," he admitted.  

This year will all be evaluated on what happens in Japan.

There is no reason to reach for the panic button just yet.

Just because Ireland have not been as convincing in February as they were in November doesn’t translate into a spiralling effect.

They are not playing that badly, raising their physicality to see off Scotland in difficult conditions at Murrayfield.   

"It takes a little bit longer sometimes," said the Cumbrian.

"That’s what Ireland will be searching for now, that cohesion, that flow that we have seen."

Lancaster doesn’t buy into the minority notion that Ireland peaked too soon ahead of this Six Nations ad even the Rugby World Cup in the Autumn.

They haven’t lost someone or something that cannot be recaptured. 

"It’s not like it’s not there," he said.

"We have seen it in New Zealand, in the four November wins.

"Now, they have a great week, a week off to train in and then a week to prepare for Italy to try and get that cohesion and flow.

"And then you have the two final games to try to finish strongly, France at home and Wales away.

"I think Ireland will finish strongly."

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