Lancaster: We need to be better

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Published: Saturday 14th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Head coach Stuart Lancaster admits England should have piled on the points against Scotland after their 25-13 victory over Scotland left their RBS 6 Nations title hopes finely balanced.

England will go into the final round of matches sitting top of the table but only ahead of Ireland and Wales on points difference, and many home fans will have left Twickenham wondering if the team will end up paying the price for missed opportunities against Scotland.

Lancaster’s men, who host France in their final match while Ireland go to last-placed Scotland and Wales travel to Italy, failed to build on a strong start as the Scots responded positively to Jonathan Joseph’s early try to head into half-time with a 13-10 lead.

Though a try from fly-half George Ford restored the hosts’ lead early in the second half and Jack Nowell’s late score added gloss to the scoreline, the hosts struggled to convert pressure into points, with two tries being chalked off for forward passes.

Lancaster said: “It’s about composure, execution and patience.

“The players know that. That said, I haven’t seen many teams pull Scotland apart in this Championship like we’ve done. They’ve lost three games before us but all by very narrow margins.

“We scored six tries against Italy and scored three tries today – we should have scored six in this game.

“So there are positives but ultimately we know we need to be better if we’re going to beat France and win the Championship.”

Coupled with Wales’ victory over Ireland, the result means three teams stand a chance of winning the title, and Lancaster says playing last on the final day of the Six Nations gives them a slight edge.

This time last year, after boosting their points difference with a thumping win over Italy, England could only watch as Ireland beat France in Paris to clinch the title .

This time, Wales and Ireland are both in action before Lancaster’s side host France – meaning they will know what is required of them to win their first Six Nations since 2011.

“It’s definitely better than the situation we were in last year,” said Lancaster, looking ahead to next week’s deciding round of fixtures.

“We had to sit and watch the last game, which was frustrating. To understand what you need to do in the final game is important.

“But we’ll be warming up as one game’s finishing, and if you start concentrating too much on that score or what you’ve got to do in terms of points difference you’ll lose the game. You’ve got to win the game first.”

Despite England’s inability to convert chances that came their way, Lancaster was fulsome in his praise for Ford, whose try set England on their way to victory.

“George’s feel around defenders, his ability to pull in defenders and execute passes at the right time, is exceptional,” Lancaster added.

“He provided a threat with his running game, his passing game and his kicking game. It was a pretty accomplished performance from someone who’s still in single figures as an international fly-half.”

While another Calcutta Cup success leaves England contemplating a first title in four years, Scotland risk ending the 2015 campaign winless, despite leading at half-time.

Head coach Vern Cotter was determined to look at the bigger picture, however.

“I think we played against a good team, and I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

“I saw a lot of spirit, I saw some courage, I saw a good try taken. I’m obviously disappointed – I would have liked to have taken the cup home – but we may just have to be patient and keep working through parts of our game that need to be worked on.

“We conceded less penalties than them, even though we were scrambling, and that’s important. That’s a shift in the right direction.

“The players played for each other. They’re a good team but we managed to contain them.

“There were a couple of times where we could have got another try, those types of things we’re generating we’ve got to take confidence from, and start finishing them and believing a bit more.”

Published: Saturday 14th March 2015 by The News Editor

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