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England focussed on bossing gainline

10th March 2014 09:26

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SKY_MOBILE Courtney Lawes England rugby union

Bossing the gainline: Courtney Lawes

At a sun-drenched Twickenham, England went some way to avenging the horrific memories of Cardiff in the corresponding fixture last year.

With stellar displays from Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes and centre Luther Burrell, England powered to a convincing 29-18 victory, with only the metronomic boot of Leigh Halfpenny keeping the visitors in touch.

Lawes was monumental and eye-catching in everything he did. The big lock is quick to point out that focus is all at Test level.

"We had two goals in our mind; one, to forget about Cardiff and treat this as a fresh page. Two, to absolutely boss the gainline, whether in attack or defence," said Lawes.

"Andy Farrell is big on the latter; he talks to us about the 'last metre of momentum' and, defending or attacking, that metre of momentum is the key to flowing rugby. It is about that last moment of momentum. Taking the ball even six centimetres past the tackle moment gives you every piece of continuity you will need.

"We wanted to be expansive today and play with a tempo that we felt Wales would not be able to match.

"To come away with a win in that style and to take a Triple Crown is a great step forward for this team."

Indeed, Lawes has improved dramatically from the somewhere clumsy youth of two or three seasons ago into a world-class lock, and he showed all of his skills, popping up in the wide channels time and time again.

"Yeah, Luther asked me if I wanted to play centre at one point! But it was great fun to be able to get into those wider positions and help the gas men out when I could," explained the big lock.

"But this is just one win. We now need to focus on the Italian challenge and we only have six days to do that."

Italy were blown apart by a very good Irish side on Saturday. However Lawes is keen to point out that Italy are always a big challenge.

"If you try and play them at their power game and get sucked into the physical arm-wrestle, you'll be level after 60 minutes and suddenly, you can start to panic," he said.

"You need to get them wide, to attack the outside channels and play with a tempo they cannot match.

"We know what sort of game this unit of players want to play and the last thing we want to do is to get trapped into the Italian prison, as we're calling it. Hopefully, it'll be a warm day like today and we can keep the ball out of contact and use our wide men to hurt the Italians.

"And then of course, we need to cheer on the French."

England Skipper Chris Robshaw, a passionate leader, agrees absolutely with his young protégé.

"We always go back to that metre of momentum now. Andy has drilled it into us that if we win it, we won't lose many games," said Robshaw.

"Test rugby is all about that true gainline. If you can win that contact area, but win it intelligently with the fewest numbers, you will be a successful Test side.

"We were immense; Courtney, Joe Lauchberry, Tom Wood and in the backs, Luther and Mike Brown, were all exceptional.

"Browny managed a total of over 160m in the match. That is an incredible statistic. What really informs that figure is I think he beat his first defender in almost every single one of his 18 runs.

"Wales are a quality side and we knew that our bar had to be high. It was very pleasing today to beat them in so many facets. And of course there's the small matter of a nice piece of Triple Crown silverware to take back with us," joked the Harlequin.

"Yes, there is satisfaction after Cardiff last year, but I can honestly say that was the least of our thought processes. We wanted to think about how we were going to win, not how we once lost!"

England travel to Rome next week without the luxury of being masters of their own destiny.

Ireland are way out on points difference and it would need a whitewash of 60 points or more for England to wrest the Six Nations from Irish claws.

"We're well aware of what the Italians can do in terms of stifling possession and stopping the game. We won't fall into that trap," explained Robshaw.

"We want to get results, but we also want to deliver them with style and panache. That's what takes you to the next level and we'll be determined to put on a show in Rome.

"We are in a good place right now. This side is playing well and there are five world class players waiting to return from injury. That's a very healthy place to be; depth in selection is everything in test rugby. Look at New Zealand; their squad has two or three test options in each position. That's where we need to be and when the likes of Croft, Manu, Cole, Corbs and Parling return, the battle for the shirt will be immense, but that battle is a very healthy one.

"In fact it is exactly how you want it. And I know my lads well enough to say that if one loses their place to another squad member, the man dropped will be the first to shake his mate by the hand.

"That's aspiration; to create competition and to really 'want it'; exactly how it should be in an elite sporting environment," added a delighted England skipper.

By James While

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