SIX NATIONS 2012: Stuart Lancaster turns down ruck with Andy Robinson

Lancaster turns down ruck with Scotland boss Robinson

Stuart Lancaster comfortably resisted the urge to become embroiled in a pre-Calcutta Cup slanging match with spiky Scotland and instead focused on the pressing issue of two significant appointments for England.

While Andy Robinson, the English coach of Scotland, reiterated his belief that his countrymen were 'arrogant' and 'disrespected' his team and others at the World Cup, Lancaster declared his aversion to mind games.

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Follow the leaders: France captain Thierry Dusautoir (left), Sam Warburton of Wales, England's Tom Wood, Ireland's Paul OConnell, Sergio Parisse of Italy and Scotland's Ross Ford will commence battle next weekend for the RBS Six Nations trophy

Follow the leaders: France captain Thierry Dusautoir (left), Sam Warburton of Wales, England's Tom Wood, Ireland's Paul O'Connell,
Sergio Parisse of Italy and Scotland's Ross Ford will commence battle next weekend for the Six Nations

Speaking at the official launch of this season's RBS Six Nations in London, the acting national coach first of all revealed that he is likely to name a captain one game at a time.

Sitting alongside him was Tom Wood, who was captain-in-waiting before he aggravated a toe injury that will force him out of the first two matches, against Scotland and Italy.

Sidelined: Alongside Lancaster was his captain-in-waiting Wood

Sidelined: Alongside Lancaster was his captain-in-waiting Wood

Lancaster's stance on the leadership issue suggested the 25-year-old flanker remains firmly in his plans.

'I'm more inclined to appoint someone on a match-by-match basis, but that is something we'll have to consider as we go along,' said the coach.

'You want to be in a position where the person you appoint for the first game can carry on, to give you that continuity and consistency, but we're learning about the players so we'll name someone for the Scotland game and go from there.'

Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw is thought to be the front-runner, though Dylan Hartley is a prominent contender.

Yet, while that pair demonstrate their credentials on a weekly basis, Lancaster indicated he would be prepared to cast the net wider.

'Leadership's not just about someone talking all the time,' he said.

Not a natural talker: But Foden would be considered for the captaincy role

Not a natural talker: But Foden would be considered for the captaincy role

'Someone like Ben Foden wouldn't necessarily be a natural talker, but he should inspire people through his actions. Tom Wood could probably inspire people just by who he is – his personality.

'You need a group of strong leaders in the team and one of my priorities is to get a leadership group in place. Tom is one of them, as are Dylan Hartley, Ben Foden, Toby Flood, Ben Youngs, Chris Robshaw, Tom Croft etc.'

The other major England appointment in the pipeline involves Lancaster even more directly. The RFU have put back the deadline for applications for the long-term head coach job until February 15. That allows the temporary incumbent time to prove whether he has what it takes. Lancaster said he will be applying.

No comment: Lancaster would not rise to Robinson's comments

No comment: Lancaster would not rise to Robinson's comments

What holds no interest for him is psychological warfare, so he refused to return fire in Robinson's direction yesterday.

The Scotland coach was given a prime opportunity to dilute or withdraw his weekend remarks about English conduct in New Zealand, but he chose instead to make the point in even more forthright terms.

'There are two or three players that I felt disrespected not only Scotland but other teams in the way they conducted themselves,' he said.

'There is a responsibility in this game, as players and coaches, to have respect for the people you play against. There were a couple of people that did it (disrespected Scotland) and that undermined what England have achieved over the last year. There were many forms, it all builds up. I gave my honest opinion.'

In response, Lancaster said: 'We want to have a team that are confident, respectful towards the opposition and responsible for the shirt they are wearing. If anyone takes the field without respect for the opposition, you're probably not going to win that game.'

Asked if he had any interest in mind games, he added: 'No. No. Sorry, I really don't.'

Wood, a member of England's World Cup squad, categorically dismissed Robinson's allegations, saying: 'We got a few things wrong off the field but we've learned our lessons from that. I don't think there's a player in our squad that I would refer to as arrogant.'

Lancaster admitted Courtney Lawes would not be fit for the opening two games, but Toby Flood may be available for the trip to Rome, if he is cleared to play for Leicester the weekend after next. The coach may release one or two players, such as Bath hooker Lee Mears, for LV= Cup matches this weekend.

For now, the mood of optimism prevails. In nine days, at Murrayfield, it will either crumble or grow even stronger.