Lessons learnt

England finished runners-up for a third successive Six Nations despite routing Italy 52-11 in Rome on Saturday.

Last Updated: 16/03/14 at 18:06 Post Comment

Stuart Lancaster: His England side finished the Six Nations as runners-up again

Stuart Lancaster: His England side finished the Six Nations as runners-up again

While a first Triple Crown since 2003 has failed to provide the elusive first piece of meaningful silverware of head coach Stuart Lancaster's reign, progress has been made on multiple fronts.

The tournament could hardly have gone any better following their opening day defeat to France, with the wins over Ireland and Wales at Twickenham hailed as coming-of-age results.

Here Sky Sports considers five lessons learnt by Lancaster from the Championship.

ENGLAND CAN ATTACK

Only fleeting glimpses of a meaningful attacking game were witnessed during the autumn, but a new gear has been found in the Six Nations.

A direct approach that plays to England's strengths is conducted at high tempo, with forwards and backs comfortable on the ball.

Mike Brown's prominent role in attack has been key, as has Danny Care's return at scrum-half and the progression of inside centre Billy Twelvetrees.

And with Care and Twelvetrees relieving the pressure on Owen Farrell, the fly-half now bristles with intent on the ball.

BLESSED WITH MIDFIELD OPTIONS

A problem area dating back to the decline of the 2003 World Cup-winning partnership of Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall, England can finally field a potent centre pairing.

As recently as the autumn the 12-13 axis was an area of concern, but Luther Burrell's selection has proved an unqualified success even if he plays his club rugby at inside and not outside centre.

Twelvetrees grows more comfortable as a second playmaker to Farrell by the game and with Manu Tuilagi restored to full fitness and Sam Burgess arriving from rugby league in October, the challenge facing Lancaster could be who to leave out.

THE SQUAD BOASTS GENUINE DEPTH

For some time Lancaster has hailed England's depth, but it is during this Six Nations that his point has been proved.

Losing a tighthead of the quality of Dan Cole could have been disastrous, but David Wilson has provided excellent cover.

The loss of Tuilagi was barely noticed due to the emergence of Burrell and Ben Morgan has served as a fine stand-in for Billy Vunipola, who has joined Cole in the treatment room.

Factor in that Tom Croft, Geoff Parling, Alex Corbisiero, Christian Wade and Marland Yarde - all but Yarde are British and Irish Lions - are due to return, and England are blessed with options.

WING REMAINS A PROBLEM POSITION

Rookies Jack Nowell and Jonny May have attacked their first Six Nations with energy and enthusiasm, showing sound temperaments and an appetite for work.

But for all their endeavour, neither has argued a strong case for enjoying a lengthy international career with Nowell scoring a solitary try between them.

In an England team now numbering several fine attacking options, the lack of true firepower on the wings is a concern.

The return of Yarde from injury will help to address this, but Lancaster must also hope Wade builds on his promise and that Bath teenager Anthony Watson matures quickly.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT TO ESTABLISH COVER FOR OWEN FARRELL

George Ford is in pole position to deputise for Farrell should the British and Irish Lion be struck by injury, yet he played only 10 minutes in this Six Nations.

Calls for him to start against Italy were ignored and he will have to wait until the summer tour to New Zealand to don the number 10 jersey with the first Test a strong possibility.

The 21-year-old has only two caps and should the worst-case scenario unfold with Farrell, England could be exposed in a critical position.

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C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

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e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

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Shaw: Criticism spot on

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urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

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