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Lancaster confident England will deliver

Scarlets player Jake Ball. Picture: Getty

Scarlets player Jake Ball. Picture: Getty

Stuart Lancaster insists England are poised to deliver against Wales at Twickenham as the biggest match of his two-year reign as head coach draws near.

Victory over the reigning champions would secure a first Triple Crown since 2003 and propel England into RBS Six Nations title contention when they face Italy in Rome on the climactic day of the championship. It would also land a telling psychological blow ahead of the rivals’ Twickenham showdown in the pool stage of the 2015 World Cup, with tomorrow’s game marking Wales’ final visit to the venue before that meeting.

Defeat, however, would extend Celtic mastery of the fixture to four successive wins, offer sight of an unprecedented third successive championship title and damage England’s self-belief.

Lancaster, who is seeking his first triumph over Wales in three attempts, knows the stakes are high.

“It’s a big game and we need to make sure we deliver on the field,” Lancaster said. “All the talking is fine, it’s the team that delivers on the day that matters. We respect Wales as opponents, the quality and experience they have and how well they are set up. It will be a tough game, but we’re ready. I understand all the context around this particular game with the World Cup coming and the importance of getting a win, but I still believe the best team on the day wins.

“We play Wales twice before the World Cup and Wales play Australia (who share Group A with England and Wales), so I’m sure psychologically there will be some things there.”

England have Ben Morgan at No 8 in place of the injured Billy Vunipola, who will miss the rest of the Six Nations with a sprained ankle, and Tom Johnson as back-row cover on the bench. There are six survivors from the starting XV overwhelmed 30-3 in Cardiff last year, denying England the Grand Slam at the final hurdle.

That crushing nature of that result has haunted the squad ever since and despite going on to deliver notable victories over Australia, Argentina and Ireland, the Millennium Stadium debacle must be avenged. “You use every defeat as motivation on how to improve. We lost to New Zealand in the autumn and that was difficult to take, as was losing to France last month,” Lancaster said. “But we’ve bounced back from those games and learned, liked we learned from Wales last year. We’ve moved on since then.”

Wales’ preparations have been hit by the withdrawal of Perpignan lock Luke Charteris, who suffered a neck injury during a scrummaging session.

Charteris will be replaced by Berkshire-born Scarlets forward Jake Ball, who shone on his first Test start in the 27-6 victory over France last month.

“It is a great opportunity for Jake,” said Wales assistant coach Row Howley. “I thought he was outstanding in the nuts and bolts of his game against France. He played against two experienced second-rows in (Pascal) Pape and (Yoann) Maestri, and he came through with flying colours.

“In terms of his game against France, his work-rate, his ball-carrying game, you couldn’t ask any more for his first start, and I am sure he will just want to replicate that at Twickenham.”

Howley added: “It is a Triple Crown (game) for them, and it is a game we want to win to stay in the championship. We’ve 
spoken coming into this championship about winning three (titles) in a row.

“This group of players has been together for a period of time now. They have played and won away from home, and that obviously gives you confidence. I keep talking about the Six Nations and the results over the last three rounds. It’s all on the day.”

England

15 M Brown

14 J Nowell

13 L Burrell

12 B Twelvetrees

11 J May

10 O Farrell

9 D Care

1 J Marler

2 D Hartley

3 D Wilson

4 J Launchbury

5 C Lawes

6 T Wood

7 C Robshaw (c)

8 B Morgan

Subs

16 T Youngs

17 M Vunipola

18 H Thomas

19 D Attwood

20 T Johnson

21 L Dickson

22 G Ford

23 A Goode

Wales

15 L Halfpenny

14 A Cuthbert

13 J Davies

12 J Roberts

11 G North

10 R Priestland

9 R Webb

1 G Jenkins

2 R Hibbard

3 A Jones

4 L Charteris

5 A-W Jones

6 D Lydiate

7 S Warburton (c)

8 T Faletau

Subs

16 K Owens

17 P James

18 R Jones

19 J Ball

20 J Tipuric

21 M Phillips

22 D Biggar

23 L Williams

 

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