STUART LANCASTER has vowed England will face New Zealand on their summer tour with “all guns blazing”, emboldened by the confidence generated by a pleasing Six Nations Championship.
Ireland may have been crowned champions after a gripping final day but runners-up England, beaten to the title on points difference, justifiably claimed to having delivered a strong tournament.
While a first Triple Crown since 2003 has failed to provide the elusive first piece of meaningful silverware of Lancaster’s reign, progress has been made on multiple fronts.
A developing attacking game, forwards capable of trading with any pack and the apparent solution to the long-standing midfield conundrum are among the developments to have brightened England’s outlook.
The ultimate test comes in June, however, when three internationals against the All Blacks will offer guidance on just how good England have become as they prepare to host the World Cup next year.
“New Zealand is a very tough place to go, as people have found. There will be no end-of-season tiredness in us whatsoever,” Lancaster said.
“We will go out there with all guns blazing and have a really good crack at it as we believe we can win down there.
“We pushed New Zealand close in the autumn and have beaten them once before.
“We have taken confidence from this Six Nations campaign and the momentum of our season in general.
“I have restated to the players the point that the season finishes on June 21.
“The players are really excited by the tour. They have loved their time with England in this campaign and coming together as a group. There is frustration we haven’t quite got across the line in the Six Nations, but that can be channelled into more positive performances in New Zealand.”
Planning for the first Test in Auckland on June 7 will de disrupted by the staging of the Premiership final seven days earlier, denying England access to those players in action at Twickenham.
This Six Nations has proved, however, that Lancaster has genuine depth at his disposal with options further improved by the possible return of Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde and Alex Corbisiero from injury.
“There are five clubs vying for the play-offs and it will make the build-up to the first Test challenging,” Lancaster said. “The reality is decisions won’t get made until after that Premiership semi-final weekend on May 19. We will go into camp after that point.”