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Lancaster relishing 'massive challenge'

Interim coach Stuart Lancaster insists England have the self-belief to bridge the experience gap and meet France head on in "one of the biggest challenges in international rugby" on Sunday.

The French, World Cup finalists five months ago, boast over three times as many caps in their starting XV as England and they have not lost an RBS 6 Nations match at home in 10 outings.

"Playing France is a benchmark. It's one of the biggest challenges in international rugby. It's a massive challenge but one we are really excited about," Lancaster said.

"We said at Friday's team meeting that the only thing that matters is what's inside this room, the belief that is there in each other and in the direction we're going.

"If you weighed up the experience of the French against ours, you'd say there's only one team in with a chance of winning.

"Our players are in a good place. Experience is one thing, self-belief another. That applies to coaching, too.

"I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't have confidence in my ability to do the job."

Lancaster, who would put himself firmly in the frame to land the coaching job full-time with a victory in Paris, has seen Jake White confirm his interest in the job and then withdraw it within the space of 24 hours.

But he insists the RFU's recruitment procedure has not been a distraction, either for him or for his squad as they look to build on an encouraging performance against Wales two weekends ago.

"It's never been a distraction. I've known from the outset that I was the interim coach and from the outset that there was going to be a process," Lancaster said. "And I knew from the outset that people would apply and there would be speculation. I prefer to concentrate on the things I can control and I am trying to give the team the best chance of winning."


From Belfast Telegraph