England head coach Stuart Lancaster insisted there is still time to turn his side into World Cup contenders despite their disappointment in failing to claim the Six Nations crown.
Lancaster pointed to the return of players such as Joe Launchbury, Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi as key positives to take forward. Lancaster said;
“We’ve beaten Australia, we’ve beaten Wales, we’ve put 55 points on France,” Lancaster said.
“New Zealand we’ve beaten before and pushed them close in the summer series. So, absolutely [we can win it].
“You saw the influence the crowd had on the players. Playing at home is a huge factor as well. We will have a good three months inside us after a World Cup camp where we can work on our cohesion. Tries like Jack Nowell’s try towards the end – that was a pretty well executed backs play. It wasn’t just poor defence by France. That’s credit to Catty [Mike Catt], Wig [Graham Rowntree] and Faz [Andy Farrell] and the work they’ve done collectively across the board.”
“I was really proud of the effort the players put in,” said Lancaster, who stressed that he did not fear any psychological damage left by another unsuccessful campaign.
“Chris backed me up on that and we have to use the pain as strength for the World Cup campaign. The boys are absolutely gutted in the changing room.
“I tried to move them, immediately after the game, to a point where they understood the game they’d just played in. But it is very hard when you’re Chris Robshaw or Mike Brown who’ve played in four championships and come second four times.
“The players’ mindset is to use this more as a motivation to make sure they don’t feel that pain again. The pain is deep. It will take a while, but when we do look back and chat about it and the emotion dies down a bit I think the boys will be excited to come back into camp.”
Robshaw, who looks certain to be named captain for the World Cup on the back of another impressive campaign at openside flanker, said the title had not been lost on Saturday but by an accumulation of mistakes through the championship.
“I am devastated,” Robshaw said. “Once again to fall short on points difference is tough to take. We went out and gave it our all but unfortunately came up short again. Obviously we are not where we want to be. We want to be champions. We look back throughout the tournament and of course you want to win Grand Slams, and we look at the Ireland game.
“But it didn’t come down to [the France game]. We look at last week, we should have taken more points there and when we played Italy, defensively we weren’t as good as we should have been and conceded tries. When you start to add up all these things throughout these last eight weeks it does make a big difference.”
“From a selection point of view, we will use the first one to look at wider options,” Lancaster said. “As you narrow down to the second game, the World Cup squad and the Ireland game, they’ll be proper games then.
“We’ll spend a lot of time with proper 15 on 15 games internally anyway. We’ll make sure the players are put under that sort of Test match pressure; we have two high quality teams now and you can replicate the intensity on training alone.”
“I think we can. We are playing very well at home and have built a lot of momentum now,”
“And if you look at where all the games are, they are back here [Twickenham]. We are building something together both the team and the fans and we have got to keep on doing that.”
Quotes from The Telegraph.