Mixed emotions for Lancaster

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Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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Head coach Stuart Lancaster expressed pride and frustration after England came up agonisingly short of the RBS 6 Nations title.

England scored seven tries in beating France 55-35 in a phenomenal contest at Twickenham but were unable to overturn a pre-match 26-point deficit as Ireland retained the title on points difference.

Sensational displays from half-backs Ben Youngs and George Ford – with two tries and 25 points, respectively – plus tries from Jack Nowell (two), Anthony Watson and Billy Vunipola earned a record win over Les Blues as England finished behind Ireland by the slender margin of six points.

“I want to congratulate Ireland on the championship,” Lancaster said.

“I’m sure it was a tense affair for them watching up in Scotland; pretty tense here, if I’m being honest.

“I’m hugely proud of what that England team has shown today and throughout the championship.

“I’ve never seen such a courageous performance from a group of players.

“We’re sat here disappointed, but we’ve just gone and put 55 points on France and scored seven tries in the process.”

It was Lancaster’s fourth tournament as head coach and England have finished runners-up on each occasion.

But the Cumbrian was bullish about England’s World Cup chances on home soil later this year.

He added: “It’s not success. I’m not sure I’d put it as failure.

“Losing against Ireland cost us it. The point is a championship is never won or lost on one moment, on one thing.

“You can’t go through the ifs and buts and maybes. Every moment matters in an international game, throughout 80 minutes.

“We’ve come up short again, it’s tough to take. But the overriding emotion is one of pride in that performance today.

“Of course there’s things we’ll learn and there’s things we’ll do better.”

The incredible Twickenham Test was a fitting climax to a tournament which concluded with a momentous day.

Wales won 61-20 against Italy in Rome before Ireland beat Scotland 40-10 at Murrayfield to go to the top of the standings ahead of ‘Le Crunch’.

Only once in the post-War period had England won by the required margin in a competitive match with France – the April 2001 Six Nations clash at Twickenham, when England won 48-19 – and again Lancaster’s men fell short.

The England team were told of the requirements before kick-off.

Lancaster said: “We got on the bus just as the Italy-Wales game finished and when the Italian guy scored in the corner and they kicked the conversion it’s even better. You’re thinking ’16 points, that’s doable’.

“Then you look at Ireland doing what they did to Scotland and you think ’26 points – that’s a big ask’. But we almost did it.”

Youngs scored a second-minute try but France struck back through Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Noa Nakaitaci to lead 15-7.

England responded again, though, with Youngs and Ford influential in a 27-15 half-time lead being established.

A breathtaking second half followed, but England fell short.

Lancaster added: “To win the game against France is a big target. To win the game by 26 points is a huge target.

“We scored a fantastic first try, but the two tries they scored immediately after that put a dent in our belief and confidence for five or 10 minutes.

“We were a little bit guilty of doing what we didn’t want to do and that’s trying to overplay sometimes, but I guess psychologically when you’ve got to win by 26 then it’s in the back of the minds.

“They stuck to it, they came back and it came down to a big moment at the end of the game.”

That moment was when England tried to shove over the line in the dying seconds, only for an infringement to lead to a France penalty and the lost opportunity for the converted try that was needed for the hosts to win the championship.

“It’s very hard to try to contextualise the challenge the players faced, of trying to win by 26 points against a team the quality of France,” Lancaster added.

“To come (to) within a collapsed maul over the line…

“What we’ve got to be is more consistent over the full 80 to win a tournament like this or to win a World Cup.

“There’s a long time to go between now and September. We’ll work hard in June when we meet in camp and we’ll be ready when September comes around.”

A third loss saw France finish fourth, above only Italy and Scotland.

Les Bleus head coach Philippe Saint-Andre rued gifting England opportunities.

“It was a great rugby match. The French players were great as well as the English,” Saint-Andre said.

“It was an amazing game. In the highest level when you have the opportunities, you need to score.

“And again we were Father Christmas. We missed 15 points in kicking and it’s difficult to win at Twickenham when you do this.”

Published: Saturday 21st March 2015 by The News Editor

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