James Lawton: Lancaster is a caretaker of courage, but bravery is not enough to return to the elite


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The Independent Online

Owen Farrell didn't have a storming game but he brought something that had to be weighed in gold. He looked as if he would soon enough pull his chair up under the table, settle down and before anyone might have imagined start shouting the odds.

The big question is to do with which coach will benefit from a touch of such life-giving gravitas: interim boss Stuart Lancaster, the man who has been given the mother of all clean-up jobs by Twickenham, or someone much further along his career path, such as South African Nick Mallett?

It may sound less than generous to the man who delivered England's first win in Edinburgh for eight years but if ever a team looked in need of the attention of a man much more familiar with the demands of the international game it was the one who profited from Scotland's chronic deficiency in the coup de grace department. England won, which considering the way they had been pieced together since the nightmare in New Zealand was probably as much as anyone could expect.

Still, it was largely a mess – and the more so it looked while coming to it from the impressive evidence that France's new coach Philippe Saint-André has the kind of nascent fire-power about which Lancaster, with just two more games in which to underline his claims on a permanent appointment, for some time can only fantasise.

As Scotland's coach, Andy Robinson, almost choked with frustration while discussing his team's failure to exploit vast advantages in territory and possession, Lancaster chose to dwell on the spirit of defiance displayed by his young team. There weren't, in all honesty, too many other places to go. When you put all the positives together this was still an extremely raw England.

Charlie Hodgson reminded us that he is a finely gifted footballer who before his decisive swoop on the hapless clearing kick of Dan Parks had never been quite able to seize his moments.

Brad Barritt tackled like a fiend, suggesting that he might have been born for the job of nailing flying Scotsmen. Chris Robshaw's debut as captain, on the slender base of one cap, naturally enough was a little short of authority but he is plainly the kind of abrasive scrapper most coaches would be happy to have in a tough situation. There are going to be quite a few more of these, and perhaps not later than the next game in Rome, where the Italians will surely be waiting with increased expectations after the promising glimmerings they showed at the Stade de France.