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Lancaster brushes aside Woodward criticism
ESPN Staff
March 18, 2014
Stuart Lancaster waves to the travelling fans, Italy v England, Six Nations, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, March 15, 2014
Stuart Lancaster waves to the travelling fans in Rome ...they were largely happy but some former coaches were not © Getty Images
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Sir Clive Woodward has used his Daily Mail column to argue that while England have taken "huge strides forward" the reality is they "have finished second in the table for a third year running and it is not going to get any easier".

Woodward was unhappy that England did not capitalise on a poor Italian side in Rome. "By half-time Italy were on the ropes but England lacked the killer instinct to finish them off. This is now the next vital step in the development of this very talented team.

"There comes a point when the focus must move away from selection to how we are playing the game and the coaches and players need to look at how to play the last quarter of matches."

Returning to an earlier criticism, Woodward targeted the way substitutes were used and said the switching of key players at key moments was a big worry. "England lost the Six Nations because of the way they handled the last five minutes against France and the final 15 against Italy. They could easily have scored three tries in the final 10 minutes against Italy.

"Substitutes will add something individually but in terms of the collective you lose much of what you have been building. I would have just loved to see the starting 15 finish the match. If the only changes had been for injury, what would the score have been on Saturday? This game was all about winning the tournament, not about developing your squad."

Lancaster dismissed the attacks on the use of replacements. "Which substitute didn't add (contribute)? I don't think that's fair.

"Manu [Tuilagi] added, I thought Tom Youngs added. I don't think that is fair. We hadn't decided that Manu coming on at 13 could make an impact. And I thought Manu played a great part when he came on. He scored a try, made tackles, he didn't make any defensive errors, he turned a ball over in the breakdown at the end that resulted in a try, so I don't think Manu can be criticised for his contribution.

"It's a young team and we are working on the right areas in terms of our attack. The defence and set piece have been excellent. We've also got players to come back in. I'm really proud of the performance."

Woodward was also critical of the side's fitness which is "some way short from the overall fitness of England's players at the turn of the millennium".

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