DEFIANT head coach Stuart Lancaster insists England remain on the right track and will stick to his masterplan for glory at the 2015 World Cup despite Saturday’s humiliation in Cardiff.
England’s hopes of a first grand slam for a decade were torn asunder at the Millennium Stadium as Wales comprehensively outclassed Lancaster’s men 30-3 and retained their RBS Six Nations title.
It was Lancaster’s heaviest defeat in 15 months as head coach and the moment that, according to World Cup-winning former boss Sir Clive Woodward, “the bubble burst” for his nascent England side.
Lancaster admits the chastening result has demoralised his players but believes the autumn defeat of New Zealand and England’s four Six Nations victories prove that his team are improving.
“The players are hugely disappointed. They feel they have let themselves down, that they have let the country down and it is a difficult place to be,” he said yesterday.
“I try and pull them back to the perspective that we had fewer than 300 caps going into a game of this magnitude and how much we have developed in the last 14 months.
“I do believe the journey we are on is the right one. We had a lot of over 30-year-olds at the 2011 World Cup and we needed to develop new players. We have had more ups than downs. This is a down but we’ll hold our nerve and stick with the plan because I believe it will come good.”
Wing Alex Cuthbert’s two second-half tries swept away any remaining English resistance, to the delight of the 74,000 crowd, as Wales showed teams everywhere exactly how to dismantle England.
“The rest of the world will look at that and say ‘the bubble has been burst a little bit, we see who they are and what we have to do to beat them’,” said Woodward.
“He [Lancaster] has to look in the mirror and say ‘what is the next stage?’. He has done a great job but he has to learn his lessons.”
REACTION: ENGLAND HARPOONED BY WALES
The guys are down and rightly so. We came here to win a grand slam and that is not what we came away with. It is tough. Being smashed 30-3 is tough to take.
England captain Chris Robshaw
The players are gutted and I know what they felt because I’ve felt it four times myself. They have just got to live with it. Painful experiences like that are all part of sport. It’s about how we respond.
England attack coach Mike Catt
We showed character in Dublin and France and this team has a lot of that, but when the really big one came around, we let ourselves down. We were beaten in all areas of the park.
England forward Geoff Parling
We talked about winning landmark games on the way to the World Cup but we’ve come up short. When we come to autumn or the next Six Nations we must make sure it does not happen again.
England flanker Tom Croft
I’m really proud to be a Welshman this evening. England are in our World Cup group and it’s something we are very mindful of. It’s probably the best day of my coaching career to be honest.
Wales interim coach Rob Howley
We had more pressure on us than a grand slam game. We just stuck tight. To get that win against England, to stop them winning the grand slam as well – the boys are ecstatic.
Wales captain Gethin Jenkins
I think there is more to come, that’s the scary thing. Our defence is outstanding, there is more to come in attack, and competition for places is very good. That’s what drives us forward.
Wales centre Jamie Roberts