No wholesale changes ... Lancaster. Photo: Getty Images
AS ENGLAND'S raw, inexperienced squad boarded its flight to Edinburgh for the match against Scotland (4am tomorrow, Sydney time), coach Stuart Lancaster will have made sure his players knew this was not a frivolous activity.
''This is a team for now and a team for the future,'' Lancaster said. ''Now is their time.''
England, with eight uncapped players in the squad of 22, have less than half the number (236) of caps Scotland will field. Three players, Saracens centres Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt and evergreen Northampton No.8 Phil Dowson, make their debuts in the starting XV. Seven others have fewer than 10 caps. Lancaster has given himself no get-out-of-jail options on the bench, where five uncapped players reside.
The coach revealed he would back these players come what may. That endorsement not only quelled anxiety, it also gave players licence to express themselves.
''Will there be wholesale changes win, lose or draw? No, there won't,'' Lancaster said. ''The framework of what we are trying to achieve and the way we are trying to play will remain the same throughout the Six Nations The players know that.''
Even though this is set to be the most inexperienced England line-up since 1963, when eight new caps beat Wales (13-6) at the Arms Park, Lancaster was quick to point out there were eight in his starting XV who played in the World Cup. There is also a strong Saracens contingent upon which to rely.
Lancaster wants a ballplayer alongside Charlie Hodgson so England can mix their options. Barritt will provide the heft, Hodgson the touch and Farrell, the goal-kicker too, a bit of everything.
''We are asking them to play in a different way,'' Lancaster said.