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Improved Parling ready for Dublin

08th February 2013 19:57

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Perfectionist: Geoff Parling

England lock Geoff Parling in many ways is the epitome of the Stuart Lancaster era - grounded, honest, hungry - but quietly confident.

The Leicester Tigers second row has taken the opportunity in international rugby handed to him by Lancaster with open arms.

Sunday will represent his 14th Test since coming off the bench as part of England's victory over Scotland a year ago, and one year on Parling found himself latching on to Owen Farrell's looped pass for a first Test try in a convincing victory over the same opponents at Twickenham.

A sign of a significant improvement - but Parling knows England can do better.

"Scotland scored a try early doors from a kick chase, which was a problem we had against Australia last year," said Parling.

"It's areas like that we need to tighten up - there's not one glaring area in our game at fault but by making our overall game five to ten percent better, we'll become more difficult to beat.

"As a pack you want be known as one of the best around - at the scrum, lineout and breakdown and we're happy so far, although there are always things that you can work on. You want to be feared as a pack and I think we're heading in the right direction, but there is a lot to work on."

That compulsion to perfect small errors will stand Parling in good stead going forward. It has also been a key factor behind his rise as a player, particularly since joining Leicester in 2009. The experiences Parling has picked up at Welford Road, from playing in Premiership finals and Heineken Cup matches, has unquestionably improved his game.

"Losing a lineout in the first half wasn't good enough and we do get frustrated," added Parling.

"At the same time every time the ball goes off the pitch and it's opposition ball, that's a turnover opportunity. Sunday is another challenge for this team. We're full of confidence at the moment but there have been things that we have worked on this week."

Facing Ireland will be Parling's fourth start alongside England's latest boy-wonder in Joe Launchbury, with the young Wasps lock making waves so far in his fledgling career.

"He looks freakishly boyish. He's a good player and at 22 he looks like he's played loads of Tests," stated Parling.

"He's very receptive and good to play with. In Courtney [Lawes] as well you have our most experienced lock at Test level and he did well when he came on against Scotland, so we have a good mix."

Facing Ireland will also mean a reunion between Parling and his old Newcastle Falcons team-mate Mike McCarthy, the Connacht forward who is set to join Leinster next season.

"He's an odd character but a good lad, very mobile and played a lot of six with me at Newcastle. Donnacha Ryan is playing very well too and they're both part of a very decent Irish pack," noted Parling.

That same Irish pack put the steamroller over Wales in the opening half last weekend, a warning to Parling and England that they cannot afford to be off the beat when Sunday's clash gets underway.

His side have shown a great fluidity and tempo in recent matches, but for Parling the key has been England's improved discipline, with the low penalty count against Scotland almost as pleasing as a well-run lineout.

"We cannot allow an easy try, especially in Dublin," said Parling.

"We have spoken about the first 20 minutes and putting a marker down early, but we won't treat it different to any other game. You can do too much thinking about the opposition so we will focus on ourselves.

"Sometimes in a game it might not go your way, but the pleasing thing from last week was only conceding seven penalties and that comes from working hard on our discipline - from looking at the opposition and making sure we're all on the same wavelength.

"We've spoken about backing up the good things with more good things - that is what will get us results."

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

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