Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England's World Cup Barometer Is Swinging to Stormy

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

England's World Cup Barometer Is Swinging to Stormy

Article excerpt

ENGLAND 28 SOUTH AFRICA 31 STUART Lancaster accepts that pressure to deliver results is mounting as England continue to flounder in their build-up to next year's World Cup on home soil.

South Africa prevailed 31-28 in Saturday's QBE International at Twickenham, to extend the hosts' losing sequence to five Tests, albeit each of them coming against New Zealand or the Springboks.

Lancaster stated in the build-up to the 24-21 loss to the All Blacks that the autumn opener would offer a "barometer of our progress". Two defeats later and England appear to be going backwards.

"Clearly the pressure is on because we haven't achieved our objective, but internally there's a very strong group working hard together to improve. There's no sense of the pressure affecting people," head coach Lancaster said.

"Every defeat hurts, but obviously you do want to make sure you build and put a positive performance in next week. People want and expect that - as do we.

"I don't think any team stops developing or learning, but the clock ultimately stops at the World Cup.

"If you don't win in the short term, while also trying to develop the side in the long term, then ultimately pressure can be caused by not winning consistently."

One of the most pressing concerns facing Lancaster is his underperforming fly-half Owen Farrell, once an automatic selection, but now surely unlikely to retain his place against Samoa or Australia.

Farrell, who has barely played for Saracens this season due to injury, does not appear to be fit and is in such poor form that George Ford is almost certain to be given an overdue start.

Lancaster, who also has problems at scrum-half with Danny Care off-colour, has defended his 23-year-old British and Irish Lion.

"There is nothing in training to show that Owen is down on fitness. He trained fantastically well on Tuesday. So there's no fitness issue," Lancaster said. "Owen will be frustrated at one or two things - the ball out on the full from kick-off, things like that, things that can come back and haunt you. Obviously, in a key position like 10, that's important.

"But he has been outstanding for England in the past and he certainly wasn't at fault for us losing to South Africa. …

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