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Lancaster learned from Wales loss

Stuart Lancaster insists an older and wiser England now have the experience to prevent last year's Millennium Stadium disaster from unfolding again.

Eight Tests have passed since the Red Rose were overwhelmed 30-3 by Wales in a mauling that saw their Grand Slam ambitions collapse at the final hurdle.

Warren Gatland's champions visit Twickenham on March 9 in a match neither team can afford to lose if they are to remain in RBS 6 Nations title contention on the final day.

The nature of last season's drubbing in Cardiff ensure it will continue to haunt England until it has been avenged, but Lancaster insists his players have come a long way since then.

"Looking back on it, the big lesson we learnt was keeping composure when the score started to turn against us and we've done that in subsequent games," the head coach said.

"I deliberately remember saying at that time we made a bad job worse and in games against New Zealand, Australia and France since then we've shown we're a lot more composed and a lot more experienced at dealing with those sort of situations.

"The trick obviously is not to put yourself in that position in the first place.

"Last year's loss was hard to take, there's no doubt about it, but no team goes unbeaten in international rugby.

"It's how you respond to the loss that's important and we went to Argentina and continued to develop our game."

England propelled themselves back into the Six Nations title frame with a 13-10 victory over Ireland, but Lancaster insists that result will be rendered meaningless if they fail to deliver against Wales.

"We're obviously delighted to have beaten a high-quality Ireland team and it was a great game of rugby, but it counts for nothing leading into this game," he said.

"On review and reflection the players understand there were opportunities left out there and areas we can improve on.

"Wales have quality players across the park. They are cohesive and well organised and have won big games, so it's a big challenge for us."

Lancaster confirmed that Ben Morgan will replace Billy Vunipola in the starting XV against Wales after the Saracens number eight was ruled out until mid-April with an ankle injury.

Morgan has already made a significant impact from the bench in this Six Nations and Lancaster believes he offers the same firepower as the bulldozing Vunipola.

"It's a dead-set like for like replacement. This is a great opportunity for Ben," Lancaster said.

"Billy has shown during the Six Nations that he has fantastic potential. It's a big loss because he gave us a lot of go forward.

"But we've seen from Ben's appearances off the bench that he also has the ability to do that."

Manu Tuilagi, who has been out for six months with a chest injury, is expected to play a role in Leicester's Aviva Premiership clash with Newcastle on Sunday.

The British and Irish Lions centre will join up with England on Monday but is highly unlikely to participate in either of the final two games against Wales and Italy.

"It would be a very big step having not played for so long, but never say never," Lancaster said.


From Belfast Telegraph