Lancaster calls for improvement

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Head coach Stuart Lancaster sees plenty of room for improvement despite England claiming a second win from two RBS 6 Nations matches with a six-try rout of Italy.

Two tries from Jonathan Joseph, plus scores from Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Danny Cipriani and Nick Easter saw England back up their opening defeat of Wales with a 47-17 victory at Twickenham.

Sergio Parisse gave the Azzurri a fourth-minute lead and Luca Morisi twice breached the hosts’ defence and a substantial improvement will be needed if England are to remain on course for the Grand Slam – and a first championship under Lancaster – by beating holders Ireland in Dublin on March 1.

“One or two areas need looking at before Ireland, but overall if you’d said to me before the game you’d get 47 points I’d have taken it,” Lancaster said.

“I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get the same level of intensity throughout the 80 minutes.

“Fortunately the latter end of the first half, but more importantly 20, 30 minutes in the second half we played some excellent rugby.

“I think back to two years ago and we were struggling to win the game (against Italy).

“We know we’ve made progress but we know to beat Ireland in Ireland we’re going to have to step up again.

“I’d take where we are at the moment but we know we’ve got step up.”

Lancaster rued the concession of an early score for a second straight week after a contest in Wales which may have had an impact on the Italy clash.

“We want to get out of the habit of giving away a soft try at the start of every game because it comes back and hurts you,” Lancaster added.

“It’s a big ask for a lot of young players to go to the Millennium, the emotional place you have to take yourself to as a young player to play a game of that intensity and then to back up again.

“I thought the likes of JJ (Joseph), Billy Vunipola, Anthony Watson managed to do that.

“Lots of areas were good today. Our scrum was good and the set piece was good again, our maul.

“In the second half our defence was excellent. We gave a couple of breakdown penalties away which was a bit frustrating.

“Someone like (Ireland fly-half) Johnny Sexton will bang those over. It’s an area we need to improve on.”

Joseph produced a man of the match performance after being shifted out to the wing following a blow to the head suffered by Mike Brown.

Lancaster, who spoke of the Bath centre’s strong season to date, added: “It was a big shift to put him on the wing. He still found a game to influence the game.

“JJ of all our centres has been top ranked. As the season’s gone on his case for inclusion has become overwhelming on his club form.”

Brown was taken off on a stretcher early on, but returned to the touchline in the second half and now has a fortnight to follow the concussion return to play protocols and recover for Ireland.

Lancaster, who was unable to confirm if Brown lost consciousness, said: “Speaking to him in changing room he seems fine. Frustrated he had to miss the game.

“We’ll see how he goes in the lead up to the Ireland game.”

Lancaster praised the impact of Billy Twelvetrees, who replaced full-back Brown at inside centre, prompting the backline reshuffle.

The England boss added: “There are a few selection decisions to be made for Dublin. Billy certainly put a marker down.”

Easter and Vunipola were also praised, but Italy captain Parisse questioned the latter’s first-half score, awarded by television match official John Ayoub, which gave England the lead for the first time.

The Italy number eight, who thought he had combined with Edoardo Gori to halt Vunipola, said: “I was really surprised with the first try. I was involved in the action and I don’t think he scored.

“The communication between John Lacey and the TMO was not clear enough. But we didn’t lose the match because of the try.”

Parisse believes Italy showed flashes of good play, despite the convincing margin of defeat.

“We really tried to play our rugby, we scored three tries against a good team, with a good defence,” he said.

“We’re doing good things, but it’s still difficult to be positive when you lose 40 points.”

Italy could have taken the lead had fly-half Kelly Hoimana kicked his four attempts at goal.

“From penalty kicks and conversions he wasn’t good enough,” Italy head coach Jacques Brunel added.

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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