England rugby union head coach Stuart Lancaster recalls forwards Geoff Parling and Nick Easter to face a difficult French team on the last day of the Six Nations, which he believes will be unique in the sporting world.
BAGSHOT, ENGLAND, UK (MARCH 19, 2015) (ITN) – Geoff Parling confirmed his position as the player coaches just cannot do without when the lock was recalled on Thursday (March 19) in place of Dave Attwood for England’s final Six Nations clash against France on Saturday, the last match of the tournament.
Attwood had started England’s last eight games but, with Courtney Lawes retaining his place after a strong return to the fold last week, he did not even make the bench for the Twickenham clash, as 36-year-old Nick Easter was recalled to cover back and second rows.
England are otherwise unchanged for a game when they are likely to be chasing a score to overhaul Wales or Ireland to secure their first title since 2011.
Parling, aged 31, has struggled with injuries since playing for the British and Irish Lions in Australia 2013 and when he came off the bench against Scotland last week it was his first taste of the Six Nations for two years.
Though he is slight by international second row standards – and certainly in comparison to the massive Attwood – his tactical awareness, lineout organisation and game intelligence are highly valued by every coach he plays under.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster told a news conference on Thursday: “Good to get Geoff Parling back in the team. Big opportunity for him to show his quality; British Lion. He’s had a huge… this last couple of weeks and very impressed with him off the bench. Tough call on the bench with Dave Attwood missing out, but I think the, the impact that Nick Easter’s made, both in camp but more importantly in the games when he’s come off the bench, I think will be critical in the latter half of the game. But as for the game itself, obviously hugely excited about it . I know the players are ‘chomping at the bit’ to get going but, it’ll be an interesting weekend all around.”
England, Ireland and Wales are all tied on six points, with France in fourth on four. The English lead the table due to a points scored difference of 37, compared to Ireland’s 33 and Wales’ 12.
Wales travel to Italy in the opening fixture at 1230 GMT, while the Irish look to rack up points against the Scots in Edinburgh at 1430 GMT.
Should those two games go to form, England would know exactly how many points they need to take the title, but were Ireland and Wales both to lose, France could still potentially snatch the title with a win.
Lancaster believes the French are capable of doing just that.
“France are going to be such a hard team to break down, because if you look at their record this Six Nations whilst they’ve not scored many tries, they’ve only conceded two throughout the whole of the tournament, which is an incredible defensive record. So in order for us to break them down we are going to have to be at our best. So all of our focus and attention is obviously on ourselves, but obviously mindful of the individual talents and flair of all their players,” he said.
Lancaster believes the last day will be unique in world sport.
“Yeah, I mean it’s certainly, it’s certainly going to be an interesting day and it’s quite an interesting coaching challenge when you’ve got to try and get the psychology of your team right and you’ve got all the variables. I can’t actually think of another sporting event where this situation would occur or does occur,” he said.