HEAD COACH Stuart Lancaster accepts England must win this year’s RBS 6 Nations as they seek to elevate the mounting excitement that has accompanied their progress through the tournament into tangible success.
Since losing to France on the opening weekend, the Red Rose have posted impressive wins over Scotland and Ireland to propel them back into title contention.
Defending champions Wales visit Twickenham on Sunday in a pivotal fixture that Lancaster admits England dare not lose.
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‘‘I agree that we need to close the deal and win the tournament. It was the objective at the outset to try to win the tournament,’’ he said.
‘‘We didn’t quite achieve what we wanted against France. That put us on the back foot.
‘‘From that point on we’ve used Wales as motivation, after they lost their first game against Ireland last year but went on to win the title.
‘‘In order to win a championship you have got to win four straight after losing the first. No-one has won a title on three wins.
‘‘If we can get the win on Sunday, it’s still within our capability.’’ Three matches into the Six Nations and the ‘arrogant English’ taunts that often inflame the build-up to fixtures against Scotland, Ireland, Wales or France have been notable for their absence.
The overhaul of the team in the wake of the disastrous 2011 World Cup has been mirrored by the determination to rebuild the nation’s reputation away from the pitch.
Lancaster’s England value humility and the head coach admits he would be stung if the arrogant tag surfaces before Warren Gatland’s champions arrive at Twickenham.
‘‘I’d be disappointed if it was put against us as a group because I don’t think it’s a reflection of the group at all,’’ he said.
‘‘We want to come across as a group that’s got our feet on the ground, that’s not getting carried away with ourselves and have a bit of humility about ourselves.’’ Providing ammunition for Wales in a fixture that dates back to 1881 and spans 124 games – the ledger is tied at 56 wins apiece with 12 draws – is the elitist image of the English game.
But of the likely starting XV on Sunday – an unchanged team is likely to be named on Friday morning – only two players will have been educated at state schools.
‘‘I’m quite fortunate that having worked in education I’ve seen it from both sides,’’ said Lancaster, a former PE teacher.
‘‘I’ve taught in a comprehensive, I went to a boarding school myself and I’ve coached in both.
‘‘I think the appeal of our system is that players can get through from both areas.
‘‘State school lads have now got unbelievable opportunities to come through and become international rugby players. That’s important.
‘‘The English rugby public connect with the team, not necessarily the educational background of the players.
‘‘It’s good we’ve got two avenues now where players can come through.
‘‘The fortunate thing is that we have a wide net in England, which is where our depth should come from. Now we’re beginning to see that depth coming through.’’ Manu Tuilagi and Marland Yarde joined England’s extended training squad for the first time in this Six Nations following lengthy spells in the treatment room.
Centre Tuilagi made his comeback from a torn pectoral muscle for Leicester against Newcastle on Sunday, while London Irish wing Yarde is two matches into his return from a hip problem.
Lancaster insists they would have to produce something spectacular in training to figure against Wales.
‘‘They’d have to go some in the next couple of days, it’s fair to say,’’ Lancaster said.
‘‘It’s a big ask for Manu to come back having had such a long period out.
‘‘He hasn’t had any time with us in camp whatsoever, so Tuesday will be the first training session he’s done since the Wales game last year.’’