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Lancaster defends his use of substitutes

Stuart Lancaster, the England head coach, has rejected criticism of his use of replacements in Saturday's 26-24 RBS 6 Nations defeat by France as misguided.

Only prop Henry Thomas stayed on the bench at the final whistle of a chaotic but thrilling Paris showdown, with the 62nd minute departure of the outstanding scrum-half Danny Care attracting greatest scrutiny.

Sir Clive Woodward, head coach of England's 2003 World Cup-winning side, blamed the replacement strategy for the defeat.

He said: "The substitutions cost England the game and that responsibility falls on the management. There were fundamental coaching errors, the players did not deserve it and it is time to wise up."

But a defiant Lancaster regards England's abysmal start as the reason for their downfall. He said: "I don't think the replacements were the reason we lost the game. I was certainly pleased with the impact all the substitutes made.

"The biggest reason we lost was the start more than anything else. To be 16-3 down is one hell of a mountain to climb in that arena. The debate about replacements is not one we have within the squad. We have a squad of 23 trusted players; we win together and we lose together."

Lancaster added: "You want the players to go flat-out for the whole game. You can't conserve energy in an international game.

"You have to go flat-out from minute one to minute 80. The players and coaches respect the decisions that are made, which are done for the good of the team. You've got to trust your bench. You can't have a pre-determined plan."

England now begin the process of re-launching their title push when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday and Lancaster will continue with his existing policy of using his bench.

"I'll make the substitutions next weekend the way I have always done, based on my intuition and the way I see the game unfolding," he said.

Lancaster indicated that changes for Murrayfield are unlikely as England seek an immediate response to the agonising late defeat at the Stade de France.

"There's a lot of disappointment and frustration, having put ourselves in a position to beat France. It's important we get a reaction," he said. "It was a devastating defeat. It's such a tough place to go and win and, having put ourselves in the position to do that, they snatched it at the end.

"There'll be some hurt going into Saturday, definitely."

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