Lancaster calls on England to 'deliver'
November 6, 2012
Stuart Lancaster has backed his team to cope without the finishing ability of Chris Ashton © Getty Images
England boss Stuart Lancaster has sounded a rallying call to his charges ahead of their match with Fiji on Saturday and has called on his team to "deliver".
Lancaster has overseen a year of transition with the England team. When he took over the side, on an interim basis, they were still struggling to recover from the infamous 2011 World Cup campaign but he delivered second place in the 2012 Six Nations with a new-look side.
The summer saw Lancaster's team take in a three-Test tour of South Africa and they returned with a draw and two defeats to their name. But England will now face Fiji and then the best three sides in the world on consecutive weekends and he has called on his team to live up to expectations and perform.
"This challenge against the top three in the world is the strongest one we have faced," Lancaster said. "We are confident. We have prepared well. I've said to the players it's production time now.
"We've got some continuity, we've got some consistency in terms of selection and the coaching team and we've spent some time together. The foundations are strong. Now we want to deliver."
But one man who will not be facing Fiji is flyer Chris Ashton. Ashton was banned for a week after accruing three yellow cards in the Aviva Premiership this season, all of them for dangerous tackles or off-the-ball charges.
In passing judgement, the Rugby Football Union's disciplinary chief Judge Jeff Blackett instructed Ashton to work on his tackling technique. But the incidents against London Irish, Exeter and Northampton were as much about ill-discipline as poor execution and Lancaster has had a word with Ashton.
"I have had a chat with him about both areas," Lancaster said. "One of Chris's real strengths is his competitive nature. It is tempering that to make sure we get the best out of him and, alongside that, work on his tackle technique.
"He is more disappointed than anyone that he is not available. He has to deal with it and put that frustration to bed and work on those two areas to make sure he is ready for next week."
Ashton will come back into the equation to face Australia at Twickenham on November 17 but England must go into the Fiji game without their most potent try-scoring threat. The dual-code international has touched down 15 times in his 26 England Tests, although he has not crossed the whitewash since Lancaster took charge.
Ben Foden is the only wing to have done so, and while Lancaster would relish having more out-and-out finishers at his disposal, he is not concerned that Ashton's absence will leave England unable to cross the line.
"You cannot just manufacture finishers. They come through the Premiership and we aim to pick them from there," Lancaster said. "There aren't many world class finishers around anywhere. We think we have two (Ashton and Foden) but they are unavailable.
"The spark doesn't have to be on the wing. Danny Care, Ben Youngs, Alex Goode, Toby Flood, Owen Farrell - there are lots of playmakers in our team, people who can change the course of a game.
"The game is not just won by game breakers. You can break a game by scrumming and scrumming, mauling well, kicking your points. That's what makes a winning team. We have to get that balance right."
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