Analysis: England put solid foundation in place
EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Stuart Lancaster has spent the first weeks of his temporary England tenure emphasising the importance of "culture" and "pride in the shirt" so he was delighted with a gutsy defensive display against a fired-up Scotland on Saturday.
The caretaker coach, hoping to land the job on a permanent basis, has also talked about giving his players a licence to attack but knows that test rugby is built first and foremost on defence.
"I said on Thursday I'd take a 'dirty 6-3' win so I'm delighted," Lancaster said after his fresh-faced side did a little better by winning 13-6 and scoring the only try of the match through Charlie Hodgson to start the defence of their Six Nations title on a high.
"It's a tough place to come and win and our defence and our desire to work hard and play for the shirt was there to see.
"We talked a lot about work rate and spirit and when you've only been together for a short spell it takes time. We didn't get everything right but we got a lot of things right," he added as England ended a run of two defeats and a draw at Murrayfield.
Lancaster started with three uncapped players and threw on another four during the second half yet England looked superbly drilled and far more disciplined than the far more experienced group who so regularly incurred the wrath of referees at last year's World Cup.
The new centre partnership of Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt provided an unbreakable barrier and, with flyhalf Hodgson completing a trio of Saracens in the midfield, they clearly benefitted from playing together on a weekly basis.
Number eight Phil Dowson, grasping his opportunity at the age of 30, plus replacements Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson and Jordan Turner-Hall all slotted in seamlessly while captain Chris Robshaw was calm in the heat of battle in only his second test.
There was not too much in the way of fearless attacking play for England's fans to get excited about but as a first step after the debacle of the World Cup and the subsequent clearout it was an uplifting occasion.
"Yes it was an inexperienced unit but we always had an inner confidence in those players," said Lancaster, who took charge after Martin Johnson stepped down in November.
"That sense of collective spirit to play for each other and to keep working was really pleasing.
"We got into shape in attack a few times but never really got continuity and we struggled to retain possession to keep the pressure on."
Assistant Graham Rowntree, the only coaching survivor from the World Cup group, said that winning at Murrayfield is something to be cherished regardless of how it is achieved.
"They showed a tremendous amount of courage," said the former prop. "For a new squad to come to a place like this and win, that's a real feather in the cap for that group of players."
While England now march on to Rome to take on Italy with a spring in their step, Scotland will travel to Cardiff to face Wales wondering if they will ever find a way to win tight games.
They failed to reach the last eight of the World Cup for the first time last year after heartbreaking late defeats to Argentina and England and will look at a host of wasted opportunities on Saturday.
Coach Andy Robinson is starting to sound like a broken record with his lamentations about failing to finish off chances and games being won and lost by tiny margins but TV pundit and former Wales flyhalf Jonathan Davies took a harsher view of the mistakes.
"I think Scotland in the opposition 22 are dreadful," he said. "I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but they are professional players and there is just no alignment there. Even when Greig Laidlaw came on he played like a headless chicken.
"Andy Robinson and (assistant coach) Gregor Townsend must be pulling their hair out."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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