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Italy 11 England 52: Lancaster's men growing in stature as greatest Test draws nearer

The RBS 6 Nations Championship is over but England have refused to holster their ambitions.

Brown collected  a third  man-of-the-match award in three games.   Picture: Getty
Brown collected a third man-of-the-match award in three games. Picture: Getty

Stuart Lancaster said as much on Saturday when he referred to his side heading into a summer tour against New Zealand "all guns blazing". The coach is convinced he is armed with a squad capable of wounding the best in the world given how dangerous England were in Rome.

Ireland were confirmed as Six Nations champions on a gripping final day but second-place England - a side beaten to the title on points difference alone - would add another strong showing to an impressive campaign by beating Italy by more than 40 points. A first Triple Crown since 2003 failed to provide the first piece of meaningful silverware of Lancaster's reign, but progress has still been made on several fronts.

The coach has developed a potent attacking game, commands forwards capable of taking on any pack and appears to have found the solution to the long-standing midfield conundrum which has dogged his national team for some time. His tenure will face its greatest Test on June 7, when the English play in the first of three internationals against the All Blacks.

"There will be no end-of-season tiredness in us whatsoever," said Lancaster. "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 before. We have taken confidence from this Six Nations campaign and the momentum of our season. 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. There is frustration that we haven't quite got across the line here, but that can be channelled into more positive performances in New Zealand."

Planning for the first Test in Auckland will be disrupted somewhat by the staging of the Aviva Premiership final just seven days earlier. That will deny England access to those players who might be chosen by their clubs to feature at Twickenham.

This Six Nations has proved, however, that Lancaster has genuine depth at his disposal; the potential return of Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde and Alex Corbisiero from injury adding to the options of the coach.

"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," said Lancaster. "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 be made until after that Premiership semi-final weekend on May 19. We will go into camp after that point."

He will hope that Mike Brown, the England full-back, is among those who pitch up. He collected a third man of the match award in three games following another outstanding shift on Saturday. The 28-year-old emerged as a potentially key figure in the autumn and has lifted his game further during the Six Nations and Lancaster believes he has been the player of the championship. "I would be surprised if there are many others who have played as well," added the England coach.

Brown crossed twice against Italy in a seven-try rout during which the English fell just 11 points short of snatching the title from Ireland's grasp. "I didn't 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 I believed they could," Lancaster said.

"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."

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