ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster admits banishing the burden of a four-year wait for a Six Nations crown is the principal objective as his side prepare for Friday’s championship curtain-raiser against Wales.
Lancaster has presided over three successive runners-up finishes since taking the reins from Martin Johnson in 2012, and last year England agonisingly missed out to Ireland solely on points difference.
The Red Rose dispatched one southern hemisphere heavyweight in Australia during their autumn programme and with the backdrop of a World Cup on home soil in September, Lancaster is clear on the need for England to start chalking up victories.
“We are frustrated that we haven’t nailed down that championship win, it does burn inside us,” said Lancaster. “But you have to earn the right to stamp your authority. There are a lot of good teams out there who will have the same motivation as us.
“We’ve been close a couple of times, when maybe the bounce of the ball another way could have made the difference. We’ve got to the stage where we want performances to lead to wins. Whatever it takes to win we’ll try to achieve it.”
The last time England recorded a Six Nations grand slam the class of 2003 went on to lift the World Cup, but as preparations for the seismic opener in Cardiff intensify, England continue to be blighted by an escalating injury crisis.
Bath’s tight-head prop David Wilson is the latest to be ruled out of the Millennium Stadium clash with a neck injury, although Lancaster has been buoyed by the return of fellow prop Dan Cole ahead of schedule following a foot problem.
Lancaster still has selection quandaries to solve before naming his squad tomorrow, particularly in terms of who will join fly-half George Ford in midfield with Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Kyle Eastmond all ruled out.
But as England look to exorcise the ghost of their record 30-3 hammering to Wales in 2013 when their grand slam dream capitulated in haunting style, Lancaster is convinced his injury-plagued squad can hold their own in Cardiff.
“The game is on Friday night, it’s in Wales who are a side full of British and Irish Lions and they don’t seem to have suffered as many injuries as we have, so they have that stability,” added Lancaster. “We back ourselves to get the best out of the players we do have.
“We’ve got to make sure we prepare well and the rest should look after itself.”