Olympic spirit can carry us home, says Lan­caster

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Gavin Mairs

Stu­art Lan­caster will send his play­ers out for the open­ing game of the World Cup against Fiji tonight urg­ing not just his squad but the en­tire na­tion to be more “front foot” in their pride at be­ing English.

The head coach wants sup­port­ers to recre­ate the Olympic spirit of the Lon­don Games in 2012 to fire his side’s bid to lift the Webb El­lis tro­phy for the first time since 2003.

“It is a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity to play a World Cup at home in Eng­land,” said Lan­caster.

“The energy a crowd can give the team is huge and it makes it dou­bly dif­fi­cult for the op­po­si­tion. The play­ers can feel that the coun­try is be­hind them. It has to be an ex­tra level of mo­ti­va­tion. We are not as front foot as we should be in our pride at be­ing English.”

Tom Wood, the Eng­land flanker named in the side to face Fiji, echoed that sen­ti­ment, say­ing: “Stu­art has talked a lot about be­ing on the front foot with English iden­tity and our na­tional pride – we know what that can do for us.

“We want to try to har­ness that. We know what it did for the Bri­tish ath­letes at the Olympics and we want some of that. We know it is a two-way thing. We have to go out there and give them some­thing to cheer, we have to show real in­tent, en­deav­our and ex­e­cute well. Hope­fully, on the back of that, there will be a snow­ball ef­fect. They will get be­hind us and carry us through.

“We’re not en­ti­tled to win it [the World Cup]. There are some great teams out there and I can’t prom­ise you suc­cess, but all I can say is that we’ve left no stone un­turned in terms of our prepa­ra­tion.

“Ev­ery­one has given them­selves to the cause, handed them­selves over and com­mit­ted to mak­ing each other bet­ter. I feel ready.”

Wood re­vealed that Eng­land’s prepa­ra­tions this week had in­cluded task­ing the play­ers not in­volved in the start­ing line-up to mimic the side-step­ping, off-load­ing game that makes Fiji such a dan­ger­ous op­po­nent. We have en­cour­aged them to throw the ball around and have a go from ev­ery­where, to try things and catch us off guard,” he said. “We have been tak­ing quick line-outs in train­ing but we try and do that be­cause we want to get the speed of train­ing up any­way.

“There is a con­di­tion­ing el­e­ment to it, the con­cen­tra­tion when you are tired. There has been a slight in­crease.”

Asked what it would take from Eng­land’s de­fen­sive ef­fort to nul­lify the at­tack­ing threats of play­ers such as Ne­mani Nadolo, Nikola Matawalu and Le­ices­ter cen­tre Vereniki Goneva, Wood in­sisted that Lan­caster’s side would not be found want­ing. He said: “It is about col­lec­tive pres­sure. If you race up in­di­vid­u­ally and you have one guy with loads of energy and the oth­ers watch him do it, he will prob­a­bly get stepped and the energy used against him.

“You need that next guy fol­low­ing up, if some­body steps they have no mo­men­tum be­cause they end up in a big tackle and they have slow ball and are on the back foot.

“Fiji on the front foot, with their run­ning game, the ball in the wide chan­nels, are in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous. We have to see how they re­act on the back foot, with stodgy ball.

“Fiji will be un­der­dogs and that will gal­vanise them, as will the sense of oc­ca­sion and the hype. It will bring the best out in them. But I feel I can speak for the whole team – we look ready in train­ing.

“We lacked some co­he­sion in the first two warm-up games against France. I feel we showed what we are ca­pa­ble of against Ire­land but we still feel there is more to come.

“We feel we can step it up another gear from there.”

Fo­cused: Tom Wood re­veals the Eng­land play­ers ‘have given them­selves to the cause, be­ing com­mit­ted to mak­ing each other bet­ter’

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