Planet Rugby

Guscott wants "ruthless" Lancaster

24th July 2013 12:45

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British and Irish Lions 2013  Owen Farrell

Stick or twist: Owen Farrell

Former England international Jeremy Guscott has called on England coach Stuart Lancaster to be tough with his selection policy.

With only two years remaining until the Rugby World Cup, Guscott has stated that Lancaster will face his hardest challenge yet since taking over as head coach in 2011.

"Stuart Lancaster must know by now that the biggest job he has as England head coach is selection. England are two years away from the 2015 World Cup, with only another 20 or so international games left to get themselves in a position to win it. That challenge will test Lancaster's selection skills to the full," said Guscott writing in The Rugby Paper.

"You can be the best organiser and have the best training and conditioning programmes and processes in place, but if you get selection wrong you will not achieve your goals.

"This is a crucial time in terms of England selection, and I am sure Lancaster recognises that he has to start being ruthless. Above all, he has to make the right choices - and bear in mind that 12 months can be a long time in international rugby."

Guscott was pleased to see England recover their attacking edge on tour in South America back in June, with young stars including Marland Yarde and Freddie Burns making an impression.

"The trademark of good teams is to score tries as well as to defend, and last season, after the Scotland game, England struggled to score tries," added Guscott.

"However, when you have the skill and speed of Kyle Eastmond, Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees, Christian Wade, Jonny May and Marland Yarde you put yourself in a much better position to do so.

"And it's not just the backs. Alex Corbisiero was fantastic in Australia for the Lions, Tom Youngs was also very good, and Geoff Parling defied his critics to make the test team. At the same time, Ben Morgan, Tom Wood, Billy Vunipola and Rob Webber showed well in Argentina.

"This gives Lancaster a great opportunity to mix-and-match the steadiness brought by some of his Six Nations regulars of the last two seasons - players like Chris Robshaw, Dan Cole, Wood, Parling, Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi - with the new young thrusters from the Argentina tour mentioned above.

"That should give him a side capable of beating opponents by scoring two to three tries a game. If that is your starting point, you cannot go too far wrong."

The former Lions centre also revealed that Lancaster has key decisions to make over Owen Farrell at fly-half and regarding Six Nations captain Chris Robshaw at openside flanker, highlighting the pressure on both players from Freddie Burns and Matt Kvesic.

"As good a player as he is, Farrell lacks the basic speed to allow a backline to attack to its full potential," stated Guscott.

"The only way he can afford Farrell is if he has an incredibly talented inside-centre alongside, as Jonny Wilkinson did with Will Greenwood. It is possible that Twelvetrees could be Farrell's version of Greenwood.

"On the plus side, Lancaster has the luxury of two different fly-halves, with Farrell, who has limitations in attack but is very strong in defence, and Burns, who has great attacking qualities but is not the best defender.

"Another big call involves Robshaw, and whether, if he has to, Lancaster can make a difficult decision in the same way Warren Gatland did with Brian O'Driscoll before the Lions third Test against Australia.

"Lancaster has to find a more dynamic number seven, but I am a Robshaw fan. He is a phenomenal player with a tremendous workrate, but he does not turn-over or slow down enough opposition ball.That is why he is a blindside rather than and openside at international level.

"If Matt Kvesic is the best England number seven he will have to prove it at Gloucester, and he will have every chance to do so because they play a great brand of rugby. It is a big opportunity for him, but he has to prove he is better than Robshaw against better opposition than the Argentina second string."

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