Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Lancaster demands winning mentality

Latest rugby union news

Stuart Lancaster insists England must enter Saturday's showdown with New Zealand convinced they will triumph if they are to develop the mentality needed to lift the 2015 World Cup.

Twickenham hosts a heavyweight climax to the QBE Internationals on Saturday when the sport's first and third best teams collide in a contest bursting with significance.

New Zealand are intent on avenging their record 38-21 defeat last autumn - their only loss in 33 matches - and a result they blame on the virus they claim swept through their camp just days before the game.

For England the stage offers the chance to demonstrate they are a legitimate threat to the All Blacks' world crown, as their sequence of nine wins in 10 matches suggests.

One team faces disappointment, but Lancaster insists his faith in England's development is shared by his players.

"New Zealand are a team apart, but if we want to be genuine World Cup contenders we've got to have the belief that we can win these games," he said.

"There is the pressure and expectation of delivering against the best side in the world.

"To back ourselves to win a World Cup in England we have to have confidence to play sides like New Zealand.

"We are playing them four times over the next six months. That will gives us a good barometer to see where we are.

"When you play the best team in the world you are in for a huge physical, mental and technical examination.

"They have gone to Johannesburg, Sydney and France and won. They are used to it.

"But we have won our last six games at home - we're a young side with a growing confidence within it."

Only 287 caps were shared among the staring XV that defeated Argentina 31-12 on Saturday. In contrast, the All Blacks numbered 853 for their 26-19 victory over France.

"We will still have a pretty young, inexperienced team come Saturday, but we will be hugely motivated by the greatest challenge in rugby," Lancaster said.

"Last year, even though we'd lost two games when we played New Zealand we still had the strong self-belief that we could beat them.

"Retaining your self-belief is the most important thing and sometimes, after losing a couple of games, it starts to waiver, but it never did at that point.

"Mentally, we are in the same place we were last year.

"We had that inner confidence last year and we've got the same inner confidence this time.

"But we still recognise that we've got to put in a level of performance that is above and beyond our wins against Australia and Argentina so far this autumn."

Lancaster refused to react to reminders from New Zealand, issued in Paris on Saturday, that they had been weakened by illness when arriving at Twickenham last year.

The All Blacks refused to hold the virus responsible for the defeat at the time, but coach Steve Hansen spoke of its impact over the weekend.

"We didn't have enough energy to compete with the English. We're hoping we don't get a virus again," he said.

Lancaster brushed aside the comment as England seek to complete the autumn with a clean sweep of Rugby Championship scalps.

"I'm sure they'll be motivated to play this game, they have an outstanding record this season and will be keen to finish off this northern hemisphere tour with two wins," he said.

"All I can control last year was our performance and I feel we performed well.

"It's a different New Zealand team we're facing this time. What happened last year is irrelevant."

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