Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Lancaster expects tough Welsh test

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has predicted a tough match to come against Wales
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has predicted a tough match to come against Wales

England head coach Stuart Lancaster refuses to dwell on what could emerge as a defining victory over Ireland as he begins plotting the downfall of rejuvenated Wales.

The Irish arrived at Twickenham chasing the Triple Crown and Grand Slam but were denied both by a 13-10 defeat that has seen them usurped as RBS 6 Nations favourites by the Red Rose.

A four-way battle for the title will be fought over the final two rounds with England hosting Wales on March 9 before ending their championship in Rome six days later.

Points difference is likely to decide who are crowned champions, but Lancaster's focus extends only to avenging last year's harrowing rout in Cardiff against opponents invigorated by their 27-6 mauling of France.

Asked if Wales will be at the peak of their powers when they visit Twickenham, Lancaster said: "I think they will.

"They will have the confidence that win against France has given them and I'm sure they will be highly motivated coming to play us.

"They have threats all over the park - just look at Jamie Roberts and George North in the centres and also what Leigh Halfpenny can bring.

"Their forwards really turned up against France and performed well too. They dominated from the start.

"You can't start thinking about points difference or how many points you want to score, only about the quality of the opposition coming your way and how you set about winning the game.

"We've got it all on to win against a side full of British Lions who are big in confidence and have won the championship in the last two years."

The soaring spirits and renewed title ambitions apparent in Wales will be matched within the England camp after an Ireland team numbering nine Lions were dispatched in a captivating Test.

Once Danny Care had darted over to finish an all-Harlequins try created by Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown to snatch the lead, a heroic defensive effort ensured there was no late setback as suffered previously in defeats to New Zealand and France.

Animated Lancaster celebrated the victory with a rare display of emotion which he later described as "relief".

"The character of the performance is the abiding memory for me. We will look back on it after the championship, but we can't dwell on it too long," he said.

"Subconsciously it will give our players that inner confidence. It never wavered after losing to New Zealand or France, but it is nice to have the direction we are going in reinforced by that performance.

"It was a tight game, a proper Test match. This has been a fantastic Six Nations."

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