- Head coach reflects on South Africa tour and vows to "assess every area of performance"
- The foundation of any good team is a strong culture. That will be the bedrock of what we build the team on – Lancaster
In a candid reflection on the tour to South Africa, Stuart Lancaster has outlined his satisfaction with his players’ “exceptional” commitment and praised the culture that is now ingrained within this England set-up.
Starting with this weekend’s 14-14 draw with the Springboks in Port Elizabeth that concluded an extremely tough Test series, the head coach seemed proud of an industrious performance despite the failure to secure a win.
“Overall, the result was fair,” admitted Lancaster. “We wanted to win the game though, so that is ultimately frustrating.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of this tour and I am pleased the players have got something to take home with them – I would have been gutted for them if they hadn’t.
“There are lots of positive areas of improvement, but equally we have to assess every area of performance – set-piece, defence, attack, in-game management and closing out a game. We weren’t ten out of ten in every area, which is what you ultimately strive towards.
“When we sit down and analyse it, there are certainly areas in which we could have done better but you can never fault the commitment of the players – the tackle count was high, we blunted their attack and they struggled for a Plan B.”
Brimming with quality
With the new Elite Player Squads to be announced in the coming weeks, the tour has left Lancaster with some tough choices as he looks toward selection for the QBE Internationals later this year.
“I was pleased with the way James Haskell and Danny Care came back in and showed their experience,” he added. “To have 10, 12 and 13 [Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph] all 21 years old and younger was great, too.
Photo: Getty Images
“Alex Goode had an exceptional first start – he was very composed. I have always admired him as a player and he took his chance. Nick Abendanon scored a hat-trick in the midweek game as well so there is definitely some strength in depth at full back.
“The autumn internationals are going to be fantastic and to have those four games at Twickenham is great. The players will have had a decent rest and those who are injured will be back on their feet. It is a great position to be in from a coaching point of view.”
Moving onto the collective ethos of the squad, Lancaster suggested that a philosophy of selflessness has developed from the spring’s RBS 6 Nations and is now the overriding feeling within the camp – evidenced in the community work that the squad helped with during the tour:
“The foundation of any good team is a strong culture. To a man, the players have been exceptional in what they have given to the tour. That will be the bedrock of what we build the team on. Making every player better is the next step. From there we can layer on the technical and tactical framework that will give us the best chance of winning.
“I think we have done eight hours of community work since we’ve been here. It’s not about being ‘happy-clappy’ – it’s about creating the right culture and the right environment, giving something back and respecting the responsibility of being an England player.
“The players have been faultless from that point of view but I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Finally, Lancaster gave a quick glance to the make-up of the coaching team, which featured former London Irish guru Mike Catt during the past month due to the absence of Andy Farrell:
“Having three members [Lancaster, Catt and Graham Rowntree] has worked well but I wouldn’t discount a fourth person coming in to give me a bit of breathing space. I will do what is best for the England team, certainly.”