Stuart Lancaster faces the most delicate motivational task of his international career as England seek to strengthen their credentials as potential winners of the home World Cup in 2015 by beating New Zealand, the reigning champions, at Twickenham this weekend. The All Blacks are treating the match as a revenge mission following their record defeat in London a year ago, while Lancaster’s men see it as a rite of passage.
“When you play the best team in the world you know you’re in for a huge examination – physically, mentally and technically,” the head coach said yesterday. “New Zealand have been to Johannesburg, Sydney and Paris in recent weeks and won in each city. They are used to winning games of real magnitude.
“But we’ve won our last six matches at Twickenham and while we’re still a young side, there is growing confidence within the group.
“The atmosphere in the stadium this weekend will be unbelievable, so the timing of the emotional build-up will be vital. Too much too soon and you burn out before the game and you find you can’t deal with things. Too little too late leaves players at risk of underperforming. Part of the art of coaching is getting this right.”
Lancaster, who faces several injury problems, in particular the concussion suffered by prop Joe Marler against Argentina, acknowledged that the last of the autumn fixtures would be an important staging post to the World Cup. “If we want to be genuine contenders, we have to believe we can win these games,” he said.