Rugby World Cup
Lancaster plays down rankings battle
Graham Jenkins
August 10, 2012
The Webb Ellis Trophy on display at Otago Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand, September 24, 2011
The pool draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will take place in London on December 3 © PA Photos

England coach Stuart Lancaster insists he is not obsessed with securing a place in the top four of the IRB rankings and with it a favourable pool draw at the 2015 Rugby World Cup but has set his sights on making it into the top two in the world by the end of next year.

Lancaster's side are currently ranked fourth and should they retain their place following a testing series of autumn internationals then they will be assured of avoiding the other sides in the top four when the pool draw is made in London on December 3.

However, Lancaster has played down the significance of the ranking and is adamant that he will not use it as a motivational tool ahead of their forthcoming clashes with Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

"You can become obsessed with the outcome," said Lancaster. "I'm much more about the process. What is the process going to be? How are we going to get the players fit, in-form, playing the right game plan, beating Fiji etc? The ranking will look after itself.

"It's in the back of my mind but the reality is to win a World Cup you are going to have to beat the best sides at some point along the way. I reminded the players that there is a World Cup draw made the Monday after the game with New Zealand but I will not use that as the motivation and the driver behind performance."

But Lancaster will be using the ranking as a key indicator of his side's development in the coming months as they build towards the sport's next showpiece."Our overall aim and objective is to be ranked in the top two, two years out from the World Cup," he said. "I think that is a realistic goal and that is what we are trying to achieve."

Such a move up the ranking will require his side not only dominate next year's Six Nations but also upset the southern hemisphere's finest in November and again the following year with a summer tour to Argentina offering a chance to cement their status.

"The driver for us will be purely performance," added Lancaster who also hinted that he is prepared to rotate his options due to the intensity of the task ahead. "We want to perform well, get the selection right and get the detail right. I will be very surprised if the side we pick at the start of the autumn internationals will be the side we pick at the end.

"Over in South Africa we used 30 players in three Tests in the space of three weeks because of injury and whatever and it will be the same in a World Cup where you are going to change your side during the tournament. You could argue that Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand is a tough test like a World Cup where you have to go quarter-final, semi-final, final and win, win, win against what is going to be a top side."

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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.

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