Lancaster upbeat despite losing out
Stuart Lancaster is convinced England can win the World Cup despite presiding over a fourth successive runners-up finish in the RBS 6 Nations.
New admirers were won as the Red Rose valiantly set about reaching the 26-point victory target required against France to depose Ireland as champions, running in seven tries in a breathtaking climax to the tournament.
Once again they fell agonisingly short, their chaotic 55-35 triumph falling six points short of the required total as a remarkable final afternoon that is being hailed as the greatest day in the competition's history drew to a close.
With the emotion generated by the heart-stopping final moments still swirling, Lancaster turned his attention to the looming World Cup on home soil which Ireland will enter as masters of Europe.
"We're definitely still capable of winning the World Cup. This season we've beaten Australia, we've beaten Wales and we've put 55 points on France," head coach Lancaster said.
"New Zealand we've beaten before and we pushed them close in the summer series, so absolutely (we can win the World Cup).
"Against France you could see the influence the crowd had on the players. Playing at home is a huge factor.
"And we'll have a good three months inside us after a World Cup camp where we can work on our cohesion."
By toppling France, England have extended their triumphant run at Twickenham to five matches knowing that all but one of their World Cup pool games will be played in an arena where their tenacity is now being matched by enterprise.
It is hard to remember a more electrifying atmosphere at a ground not known for its boisterous support and Lancaster understands the role the 82,000 crowd will play when the global showpiece opens against Fiji on September 18.
"Absolutely Twickenham is a fortress now. I thought the crowd against France were fantastic," Lancaster said.
"They gave us energy from minute one and never lost heart or belief, even when we went behind.
"You literally felt in that driving maul at the end that there were 82,000 people pushing the players over the line."
England's progression from the group stage can not be taken for granted, however, with Wales and Australia also present in a ferociously competitive Pool A.
"Wales are a very good team, as are Australia, so it's going to be high stakes when those games come around," Lancaster said.
"The margins in the games between the three teams will be crucial and perhaps the other games you play in the pool will be a factor in it as well.
"Even Fiji first up is going to be a big challenge because they'll have all of their best players available and they've had a three-month training camp leading into it."
The approach of the World Cup means Saturday's disappointment must be digested quickly with a wider squad of some 45 players for the summer training camp set to be named in mid May.
Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw animatedly addressed the squad in the immediate aftermath of a near-miss against France that could yet serve a purpose in the pursuit of the greatest prize of all.
"I tried to move them immediately after the game to a point where they understood the game they'd just played in," Lancaster said.
"That's very hard when you're Chris Robshaw or Mike Brown who's played in four Championships and come second four times. It will take a while.
"We talked on the pitch at the end. It started with me. I was saying what a courageous performance it was because I was really proud of the effort the players had put in.
"Chris backed me up on that and said that we have to use the pain as strength for the World Cup campaign."