Lan­caster urges Eng­land to blend am­bi­tion with ac­cu­racy

Coach wants no re­grets from his team tonight Ref­eree Poite could hold key to hosts’ prospects

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport: Rugby World Cup 2015 - Mick Cleary

Stu­art Lan­caster went to see the Hol­ly­wood 3D block­buster Ever­est while killing time a fort­night ago be­fore the late-night kick-off against Fiji, a suit­able tale of an in­di­vid­ual fac­ing a moun­tain­ous chal­lenge, get­ting caught in a storm and dy­ing. The Eng­land head coach re­marked wryly that he had no in­ten­tion of re­peat­ing the end­ing this Satur­day.

The task that lies ahead of Lan­caster does in­deed rear high into the skies, an ob­sta­cle of for­mi­da­ble pro­por­tions, Eng­land’s very own sport­ing Ever­est.

One thing, though, has be­come clear in re­cent days as Eng­land build to­wards what will be a sem­i­nal mo­ment in all their ca­reers. This week, they have no op­tion but to go for broke. There will be no to­mor­row should they fail in their mis­sion, no rec­om­pense, no pats on the back for plucky en­deav­our, no mit­i­ga­tion what­so­ever. They will have failed and they will all have to live with the con­se­quences.

And that is why there has been a dif­fer­ent mood in the camp this week, less febrile, more stead­fast and self-as­sured. Lan­caster has cer­tainly set the right tone.

“The mes­sage to the play­ers is to make sure that they fire some shots,” said Lan­caster. “They do not want to be com­ing off the pitch with any re­grets at not hav­ing had a crack.”

Eng­land do not carry the air of a team cowed by the scale of the chal­lenge. They have no in­ten­tion of see­ing the epi­taph ‘passed away with a whim­per’ be­ing etched on their tombstone. Lan­caster was quick to point out that this did not mean that the team should be gungho and devil-may-care be­cause, if any­thing, it was such rash­ness that cost them dear against Wales.

Am­bi­tion has to be ac­com­pa­nied by ac­cu­racy, dar­ing with pre­ci­sion, a sense of ad­ven­ture shaped by an ear­lier than any of the other top teams. That is the re­al­ity with which they have to cope.

Eng­land are con­structed to de­liver on all fronts, with the bal­last and break­down graft of Joe Launch­bury an as­set in the pack along­side the ex­plo­sive po­ten­tial of Ben Mor­gan in the back row. The Glouces­ter No 8 needs to get his dan­der up, to show that he is the player of 12 months ago, putting dents in the op­po­si­tion and giv­ing his pack a tar­get by blast­ing across the gain line. If he fires, then Eng­land are in the game. If he does not, then they are floun­der­ing.

The Owen Far­rell and Ge­orge Ford de­bate does not have the acu­ity or con­tro­versy of last week given that the Sara­cens fly-half ac­quit­ted him­self pretty well against Wales. As Lan­caster was at pains to point out, Far­rell does of­fer plenty of at­tack­ing op­tions, just as Ford has de­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

That is as may be, and Far­rell cer­tainly has to show that he can draw the same po­tency from the re­stored Jonathan Joseph as Ford man­aged through­out the 2015 Six Na­tions Cham­pi­onship. Eng­land have as much fire­power to of­fer as the oft-lauded Wal­la­bies, per­haps even more. Far­rell has to pull those strings to good ef­fect.

The scrum bat­tle has al­ready fizzed and sparked through­out the week, Aus­tralians of var­i­ous hue ac­cus­ing Eng­land of il­le­gal­i­ties. The Wal­la­bies have im­proved their scrum but this will be the acid test for them. If Eng­land do as they did against Wales, glean penal­ties, then they are in busi­ness.

Like­wise, the line-out. Much has been made of the Wal­la­bies du­alopen­side strat­egy, with David Po­cock and Michael Hooper charged with boss­ing the break­down. But what Aus­tralia gain there, they could lose in hav­ing one jumper fewer in the line-out.

Much, as ever, de­pends on the ref­eree, Ro­main Poite, as to how strict he is at the scrum or on the re-emerg­ing blight of the truckand-trailer maul used tellingly by Aus­tralia. If the Wal­la­bies fall foul, then Far­rell can do to them what Dan Biggar did to Eng­land last week.

Far­rell has to be spot on, too, with his kick­ing from hand. If he is way­ward, then he al­lows Is­rael Fo­lau into the game. The mul­ti­code star needs no sec­ond bid­ding. Fo­lau can win a match on his own.

Above all, Eng­land have to be com­posed, no mean feat against such a back­drop and with so much at stake. Twick­en­ham has to be a boost to the cause, not a bur­den. Lan­caster’s fi­nal mes­sage to the play­ers will have res­o­nance.

“To do it for ev­ery­one, for the rugby clubs and the mums and dads and the kids that play rugby, for their fam­i­lies but ul­ti­mately to do it for them­selves, for they have put the graft in,” Lan­caster will tell them. “This is a big mo­ment for them. This is a big mo­ment for all of us.” It most cer­tainly is that.

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