Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

Ireland are the complete side, says Lancaster

By Duncan Bech

Stuart Lancaster is preparing England to face the RBS 6 Nations' most complete side when Ireland visit Twickenham on Saturday week.

Brian O'Driscoll's men have swept aside Scotland and Wales to retain hope of completing the Grand Slam, with France the tournament's only other unbeaten team.

Lancaster admires an experienced starting XV packed full of British and Irish Lions that he believes is well coached.

"Ireland are becoming the most complete the side, definitely, because they've clearly improved in their forward play," England's head coach said.

"John Plumtree is their new forwards and defence coach and you can see the improvements they've made in that area.

"Their mauling game, as we saw against Wales, was excellent, so technically they're very good.

"They're very good at the breakdown, which is another element of John Plumtree's role.

"And Joe Schmidt is a very good head coach who understands the different strategies needed to win games.

"Ireland have kicked the ball probably double the amount of times they did during the autumn internationals. They manage the tactical game very well.

"The third part of the equation is the quality of players they have.

"There were over 700 caps in their team and you only have to look at how many British Lions they have. It's a pretty good side all round at the moment."

Lancaster confirmed that wing Marland Yarde, centre Manu Tuilagi and full-back Ben Foden were close to making returns for their clubs after lengthy spells in the treatment room.

Meanwhile, Wales centre Scott Williams is set to miss the remainder of the RBS 6 Nations because of a shoulder injury.

The 23-year-old is expected to undergo surgery this week and could be out of action for up to three months.

A statement from the Welsh Rugby Union read: "Centre Scott Williams has been released from Wales' 2014 RBS 6 Nations squad due to injury.

"Williams injured his right shoulder in Saturday's defeat to Ireland and will require surgical intervention."

Williams was hurt tackling Brian O'Driscoll in the 17th minute of Saturday's 26-3 loss to Ireland.

George North replaced Williams at centre during the game, with Liam Williams playing on the wing.

That could again be the solution Warren Gatland goes for in his side's next game against France with Jonathan Davies set to be unavailable.

Davies is not ready as he continues his fitness fight after suffering pectoral muscle damage during the autumn Test series opener against South Africa three months ago.

Gatland said on Tuesday: "We are not too sure at the moment whether he will be available against France. He is still not 100 per cent.

"He played that game for the Scarlets last week and felt a little bit sore, so we are trying to assess him to get up to speed in terms of lifting weights and contact. He is not there at the moment, so he is not available at the moment."

Wales face a potentially make-or-break home tie with France on Ferbruary 21 after beating Italy but losing to Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph