Stuart Lancaster: England must raise game to win in Wales in Six Nations decider


Stuart Lancaster was sharper and brighter than his team when he suggested that they will need to be a damn sight better than this to achieve a first Grand Slam in a decade in Cardiff next weekend.

Pre-match cheerleaders had England building a frightening points-difference advantage at Italy's expense, heading into the final Six Nations round against Wales on Saturday.

In reality, head coach Lancaster was relieved at winning a game which, at one stage, Italy threatened to secure their first victory against England since their initial meeting back in 1991.

Lancaster admitted: "We take the win, but I thought our accuracy was not the best. We said all week that Italy would give us a huge challenge.

"Now we are being asked if we can win a first Grand Slam in a decade against Wales next week, and my answer is that we have to play better than that to achieve it.

"We will take a lot of lessons from that, and know that we face a fantastic occasion at the Millennium Stadium."

Lancaster had attempted to prepare the nation for the reality that Italy have progressed seriously since becoming the sixth nation in the tournament.

But he also confessed to disappointment after a distinctly average display by his men before a capacity Twickenham crowd.

"The win was something of a relief," Lancaster added, "because while we controlled areas of the game, we failed to take the chances we created. We came close to completing moves, but these are things we can work on heading into a short, six-day turnaround. We have a few injuries to monitor – Geoff Parling and Joe Launchbury, for example – but we will be looking at how we can better take the opportunities we are creating.

"But we are not overly depressed. We created opportunities but failed to convert them. The tournament always makes life more difficult than supporters anticipate."

The England defence coach Andy Farrell was ready to take on board the mixture of win and woe, confessing: "The emotion and the passion in Cardiff will be at another level, and we all know that. We are still a very young and inexperienced team at Test level, and that reality will be tested to the highest level against Wales. We remain the meanest defence in the Six Nations Championship, and we are coming ever-closer to that level in terms of finishing," Farrell added.

Having warned all week that expectations were getting out of hand, the England captain, Chris Robshaw, said: "We were under no illusions how hard it was going to be, especially after our battle to win in Rome last year. Being honest, we were not great against Italy, but it is four wins from four and all to play for in Wales.

"Some of what we planned for the game did not work on the day, but we defended well and we go to Wales with a definite target. You have to accept that the Six Nations is a real contest, that no game is anything other than a real battle, and Italy had us defending for the outcome at the end."

Italy's captain, Sergio Parisse, said: "We came to Twickenham after two poor games to produce a really good effort at [securing] a first win against England.

"The more we achieve this level of rugby, the closer we get to our ambitions. I hope we can add to those with a first win against Ireland [on Saturday].

"We take the defeat, but there will come a time when Italy will win such close games, and that is the measure of our development."

England's World Cup-winning former coach Sir Clive Woodward warned: "Despite the pre-match hype, this was always going to be a tough game because Italy are a far better team than they receive credit for. England's bits and pieces didn't work on the day, but next week will be another world. People talk about points difference, but you go to Wales to win, not worrying about the margin. England have the belief to achieve that win, but they will have to be up a level to succeed."


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