Lancaster: Training was fiesty
England's preparations for their penultimate RBS 6 Nations match have been ignited by a full-blooded final training session that saw two rival teams lock horns at the squad's Pennyhill Park training base.
The starting XV selected to face Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday, which has been strengthened by the return of full-back Mike Brown and lock Courtney Lawes, locked horns with a second string composed of replacements and Test hopefuls.
Referee JP Doyle oversaw the exchange as England paid close attention to rectifying the breakdown and discipline problems that contributed to the 19-9 defeat by Ireland, a result that has left Stuart Lancaster's men on the periphery of the title race.
Another subdued performance of the type witnessed in Dublin would be cause for major concern with the World Cup then just four matches away, but Lancaster has been encouraged by the feistiness of Wednesday afternoon's practise.
"Both sides had an edge about them. I had to calm it down and it was me blowing the whistle at the end to make sure we didn't play the game too early," Lancaster said.
"The non-15, if you like, had a point to prove but also wanted to create some intensity in the session, particularly at the breakdown, to make sure we were accurate as a team.
"They did that and were a huge challenge for us defensively. It was the type of session you need sometimes in the lead up to a big game.
"You look for that edge and the players were in the right place during the session, but you have to make sure that translates to match day. But it's been a good start to the week.
"You wanted to put the starting team under pressure so that they get used to making decisions under pressure and the more you can replicate that in training, hopefully when the game comes around it becomes easier.
"You can't do it very often because there is usually a game you have just played. We needed it and I'm confident we'll be in the right place for Saturday."
Among those involved in the session was Lawes, who has been restored to the starting XV at the expense of George Kruis after missing the opening three games of the Six Nations with an ankle injury.
The 26-year-old has proved his fitness over two club games for Northampton and will resume the second row partnership with Dave Attwood that was seen throughout the autumn.
Lancaster has revealed he oversee run the line-out, freeing up Attwood for a more explosive role.
"Having the responsibility of running the line-out gets the best out of Courtney. He's quite quiet off the field, but the more responsibility you give him, the better he becomes," Lancaster said.
"It also means Dave Attwood doesn't have to think about the lineout - he can concentrate on the fundamentals of his game such as breakdown, tackling, carrying hard... smashing people."
On his day Lawes can be one of the most destructive players in England's ranks, but his injury record makes for grim reading - partly as a result of the very instincts that make his a key presence.
But experience and maturity have taught to him the value of a more measured approach to the game.
"I've had my fair share of injuries and not the first time come back in middle of Championship," Lawes said.
"I'm not too revved up at this point. I'm pretty chilled. It has been frustrating on the sidelines, but there's nothing you can do.
"I got unlucky with my ankle but I was able to stay fit for a year and a half before that. I've come back strong in these last couple of games which is great.
"I know that I'm not made of steel. If I'm reckless then I'll probably hurt myself which is why I keep a lid on things.
"I've always been pretty chilled, but when you're younger frustrations can get the better of you and you can be a bit rash. I've matured. I've been around the team a long time now."