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Easter backs Ritchie assessment

Veteran number eight Nick Easter agrees with Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie that finishing second in the Six Nations for four years in a row is "not acceptable" for England.

Ritchie made that damning assessment after the Red Rose finished runners-up to Ireland for the second consecutive season at the weekend, falling short by a difference of six points despite a heroic 55-35 defeat of France in their final game.

"Four years as runners-up is not acceptable and we are not happy with how that came about," Ritchie said. "If you go back through history, bearing in mind a lot of things, we should be, as a country, winning more in terms of Grand Slams, Six Nations championships, other things."

Easter was part of the England squad that last won the trophy in 2011, ending an eight-year drought, and he admits that two titles in 13 Six Nations campaigns is not good enough.

"I agree, and I think everyone involved with England would agree as well - given the players we've got, the coaching set-up and facilities," he told the Daily Mirror.

"Obviously, there are other strong nations in the ­Championship as well, but to win one Six Nations in 12 years is a poor return."

An opening win in Wales stoked England belief, but the home defeat of Italy was followed by a loss to Ireland in Dublin which ceded the championship initiative before victories over Scotland and France.

Easter was recalled by head coach Stuart Lancaster to make his first appearances since the 2011 World Cup where England exited at the quarter-final stage.

Despite his criticism, Ritchie believes that England can still triumph in the 2015 edition on home soil in the autumn and Easter thinks they will learn from their recent disappointment.

"The greatest learning we'll take from this experience, going forward into the World Cup, is the Ireland game because that's the one that let us down," he said.

"I know our defence wasn't great on Saturday and against Scotland, we left a few tries out there.

"But we still won those games and were comfortably the better side. Whereas, against Ireland, we never really fired a bullet, we never put a shot across them. It wasn't a great game.

"The important lesson we must learn is that you can play well for three games, but, if you're not on-song for any one game in a World Cup, that's it - it's over."

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