Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lancaster Prepares for Judgment Day by Narrowing His Sights

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lancaster Prepares for Judgment Day by Narrowing His Sights

Article excerpt

STUART LANCASTER goes into his biggest match as England head coach accepting the consequences of failure against Wales in tomorrow's critical World Cup clash could shape his future in the job.

One match will not decide his fate, but defeat would put Lancaster under the most intense scrutiny before the small matter of Australia a week later.

"I understand the stakes and the consequences of this match," he admitted. "It was always going to be the case that I am going to be judged on this one and next week. I haven't been insulted by comments about our selection and people are entitled to their opinion. I appreciate there is going to be debate."

In the face of this scrutiny, Lancaster has reined in his attacking philosophy and chosen a game plan that he believes is required to defeat Wales and pile the pressure onto his opposite number Warren Gatland.

By choosing a midfield of Owen Farrell, Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt, England are sending a clear message to the Welsh players and it is one they will instinctively recognise because both teams are trying to deliver the same threat.

Wales base their attack around the ability of inside centre Jamie Roberts to break the gain line early. Quickly recycled ball gives them options left and right of the breakdown. From there, they have the chance to launch a multi-phase attack designed to turn it into a numbers game. By creating that overlap, crossing the tryline becomes a whole lot easier.

In this World Cup, England would like to attack with real width, but recognise that without the injured Jonathan Joseph their ambition must be tempered because the way Wales defend is designed to force mistakes as teams try to find the space out wide.

If you attack on a much narrower front then you need the kind of physical battering ram that Roberts provides for Wales and that is where Burgess comes into the equation.

After Manu Tuilagi was banned from the squad until January following his conviction for assault, Lancaster decided Burgess would be the next best wrecking ball, despite having only played 20 games of union.

So, what does Lancaster want to achieve with this controversial selection? …

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