ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has reminded his squad that they are playing not just for long-awaited Six Nations glory but also their Rugby World Cup places.
A chastening defeat to championship leaders Ireland in Dublin on Sunday has left Lancaster needing to conjure a strong response from his team when Scotland visit Twickenham next week.
That clash is also England’s penultimate competitive fixture before the World Cup on home soil begins in September, and therefore one of the last chances for some players to impress in tournament conditions.
“There is plenty to play for – not just for now, the championship – for me in terms of understanding which players can and can’t deliver under pressure leading into the World Cup,” said Lancaster.
“Once we get to that World Cup camp we’ll have a lot more players available who have been injured. They’ll come back into the equation and the World Cup will take its own course.”
Lancaster expects to have full-back Mike Brown available again for the Calcutta Cup match as the Harlequins player is set to resume training tomorrow following a concussion lay-off. Brown is fancied to reclaim a starting spot from Alex Goode, though the England coach defended his stand-in No15 and, despite releasing him to face Wasps on Sunday, insisted the Saracens man’s omission was not a foregone conclusion.
“Both Mike and Alex will compete for that 15 shirt next week,” he added. “Mike has a lot of experience and does bring a lot to the team, but Alex had a good game against Ireland and dealt with the high balls well.
“If you see Johnny Sexton against other teams, he always seems to find grass with his tactical kicking but Alex managed to cover all those eventualities. There was a lot of work that came Alex’s way and he did well. I’m keeping an open mind until next week.”