Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Lancaster calls for peak performance

Stuart Lancaster's England last tasted RBS 6 Nations success in Dublin 10 years ago

Stuart Lancaster warned England will have to play to the very edge of their mental and physical limits if they are to end a decade-long quest and beat Ireland in the hostile surrounds of the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

It is 10 years since England last tasted RBS 6 Nations success in Dublin and while that history will have little bearing on this match, there are key lessons for Lancaster to draw from an era of misery and frustration.

Lancaster said: "You have got to hit the balance between being on the edge emotionally to match the Irish in those physical areas such as the breakdown and not so over that you become ill-disciplined and you lose sense of your game plan. That is the art of coaching - trying to get the players in a state of mind so they are at that tipping point so they can maintain it for 80 minutes."

In 2009, England lost their discipline and Danny Care's late sin-binning for a petulant shove on Marcus Horan cost them any chance of a victory at Croke Park. Two years ago, England were caught out by Ireland's intensity and their Grand Slam ambitions were destroyed by a humbling 24-8 defeat.

Lancaster has steeled England for another Irish onslaught and reminded them of the brutal lessons they learned on last summer's tour of South Africa.

The Springboks stormed into a 22-3 lead in the first 20 minutes of the Johannesburg Test and, although England fought back valiantly, the damage had been done. Ireland did exactly the same to Wales last week, dominating the first half to secure them a victory at the Millennium Stadium.

Lancaster added "What we can't afford is to be caught out. South Africa and the intensity of those first 20 minutes was a great learning experience. It prepares you for (Dublin) as best you can.

"If you are not up for it enough, as you saw two years ago, it is all over. If you are too much up for it then, well then it's all over."

As expected, Lancaster made just one change to the side that beat Scotland 38-18 last weekend, with James Haskell starting at blindside flanker and Tom Wood shifting across to number eight in place of the injured Ben Morgan.

Lancaster resisted the temptation to start with Manu Tuilagi in midfield and has instead primed him to make a game-changing impact off the bench, a seat he will occupy for the first time in a Test match alongside the likes of Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes.