England news
Lancaster views All Blacks as sporting benchmark
ESPN Staff
October 10, 2013
England celebrate with the Sir Edmund Hillary Shield, England v New Zealand, Twickenham, England, December 1, 2012
England look to retain the Sir Edmund Hilary Shield in a tough match against New Zealand in November © Getty Images

England coach Stuart Lancaster views upcoming opponents New Zealand as the benchmark for all sporting teams. The All Blacks visit Twickenham on November 16 in the most eagerly awaited of England's international series next month, following last year's stunning 38-21 defeat in a match that remains the high point of Lancaster's reign.

A high-quality 38-27 victory in South Africa last Saturday saw the All Blacks retain their Rugby Championship crown and Lancaster believes they set the standard beyond rugby. "They are the benchmark, not just for teams in rugby but sporting teams in the world in terms of their consistency," he said. "The consistency of performance they've put in has been exceptional."

England's autumn series starts against Australia on November 2 and also includes a fixture against Argentina. The Wallabies have been poor this year but showed signs of revival in Saturday's 54-17 rout of Argentina and Lancaster insists the key to success this November is a triumphant start.

"I saw Australia's performance in Argentina. It was really strong - as good as I've seen in this season," he said. "If we get too far ahead of ourselves we will be in trouble. Our priority is focusing on Australia, who have found their feet again after a long run of games together."

Lancaster will study the looming two rounds of Heineken Cup action intently as he finalises plans with the captaincy and midfield among his most pressing issues. Flankers Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood are competing for the leadership role, but Lancaster sees no need for a skipper before England meet for a training camp in Leeds on October 21.

"We have two big European weekends and I've consistently said you must select on form and fitness first. Injuries also play a part," he said. "Equally there's no need to announce a captain early when it might influence what you're thinking selection wise. If you name the captain early then you're pretty much ruling out everybody else playing in that position and I want to keep competition for places high."

Lancaster believes the next two weeks are important for selection process leading to Autumn series
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