When news happens, text CHRON and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email & phone.
Lancaster looks to defining summer
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 RBS 6 Nations.
Ireland may have been crowned champions following 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.
"As long as we keep our momentum going the players should be peaking for the end of the season.
"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.
"Obviously there is frustration that 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 Aviva 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.
"I have already worked out a couple of permutations for that first Test and we'll have to see who ends up in the top four," Lancaster said.
"There are five clubs vying for the play-offs and it will make the build-up to the first Test challenging.
"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. And there are still five English clubs in the Amlin Challenge Cup."
England head to New Zealand armed with Europe's finest full-back in Mike Brown, who collected a third man of the match award in three games with another outstanding shift in Saturday's 52-11 victory over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico.
The 28-year-old emerged as a key figure in the autumn but has lifted his game to new heights throughout the Six Nations and Lancaster expects him to be chosen as player of the championship.
"I would be very surprised if there are many others who have played consistently as well," Lancaster said.
"When you talk about his error count - irrespective of his game-breaking ability and the points of difference that he has - then they can be counted on one hand. I can't think of any actually.
"He has been exceptional and I thought he deserved man of the match against Italy, although Ben Morgan was not far off either."
Brown crossed twice against Italy in a seven-try rout that saw England fall 11 points short of snatching the title from Ireland's fingertips.
"I didn't directly set our players the target of scoring as many points as possible, but having made the point that not many sides go to Rome and win by 50, I did tell them that I believed they could," Lancaster said.
"And certainly at half-time, when we were leading 24-6, I definitely believed they could. And so it proved, but it wasn't quite enough."