Brian Smith: Stuart Lancaster will be looking to find more proven performers for England

Coach's view: England coach will want to emerge with a clear idea of who he can trust to deliver

What are England looking to get out of this autumn series at Twickenham, above and beyond results that send the crowd home happy? When I was involved in the coaching team, what we most wanted from the pre-Christmas internationals was clear evidence that the players we'd introduced were genuine Test performers. If we reached the end of the November programme saying to each other "yep, we've found another one", we knew some progress had been made.

This will be in the forefront of Stuart Lancaster's mind over the next four weeks: he'll be looking closely at the relative newcomers – at Alex Goode and Charlie Sharples, at Joe Marler and Tom Youngs – and making judgements on exactly how much they can contribute at the top level. This is less a question of skill than of temperament. An example: back in 2008, none of us doubted Danny Cipriani's skill-set as an attacking outside-half, but as the autumn unfolded and we found ourselves being badly dented by the Springboks, it became pretty evident to us that he was struggling with the mental side of his game at that time.

There are a lot of players who handle the pressures of Premiership rugby well enough, but the step up into the Test environment is not an easy one to take. As Stuart continues to build his squad, he'll want to emerge from this fiercely intense month of international activity with a clear idea of who he can trust to deliver on the big occasion and who is at risk of falling short.

Today's contest with Fiji is a fantastic starting point for the side. Whatever the tourists bring to the mix this afternoon, they won't be big on organisation. How can they be? Even though they're missing some of their more familiar European-based names, they've drawn a fair few players from club rugby in Britain and France and are running them alongside inexperienced guys who are still living in the islands. It takes time to pull people together and as time is something they never have, they are bound to struggle for coherence. Also, a big proportion of the squad are on their first trip to the northern hemisphere. You have to think that for them, running out at Twickenham in front of 80,000 people will be a culture shock.

The last thing England need to do is turn this into a game of basketball, but I don't think any side put together by Stuart is at any great risk of committing that particular sin. This is an opportunity for them to get their act together in the technical areas of scrum and line-out – if they are on their game in the tight, I'll be surprised if the match isn't won by the hour mark – and get some patterns bedded in. But they also need to be wary: if they make the mistake of simply running in ones off the scrum-half, the Fijian big-hit tacklers will bury them. England should use Manu Tuilagi's power in midfield to work the opposition centres and have runners sliding in behind him.

I go back a long way with Mike Catt, the new attacking skills coach, and I'll be interested to see what he brings to the mix. One of the criticisms repeatedly thrown at England teams is the shortage of tries and if I know Mike, he'll be working his tail off to put his stamp on things. He won't be struggling for ideas, but he needs to make early strides in bringing them to fruition. With Australia, South African and New Zealand around the corner, life isn't about to get any easier.

You'll forgive me if I express my genuine delight at David Paice's inclusion in the squad for today's game. The hooking position is an issue for England at the moment: Dylan Hartley, the current number one, is unlikely to recover from his knee injury in time to feature in this series and Youngs is a very fresh face indeed. His line-out throwing has come in for some criticism recently and while he shouldn't have too many problems against Fiji if the tempo is right, it will be a different story against the Wallabies, who are always extremely competitive in this crucial department.

Paice is an excellent thrower and he also knows how to boss a scrum. What he doesn't do is talk his way through a game, unlike many other hookers I could mention. Back in 2008, there was a lot of discussion in the England coaching room about who should wear the No 2 shirt. I was very much in David's corner, as you'd expect given my London Irish connections, while Graham Rowntree pushed hard for Hartley. As Graham was the forwards specialist, the argument was his to win.

But I've worked with David for a long time now – funnily enough, we attended the same school in Brisbane – and I know what he brings to a team. For one thing, he's unflappable; for another, he's a tough customer, something of a silent assassin. If I could buy shares in David Paice right now, I'd definitely have my hand in my pocket. England are about to embark on a demanding series of matches against opponents who will ask some serious questions of a newcomer like Youngs. If he fails to come up with the right answers, I can see David's stock rising very quickly.

Brian Smith is rugby director at London Irish and the former England attack coach

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride