Lancaster defends bench strategy

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Stuart Lancaster was 'pleased with the impact all the substitutes made' Stuart Lancaster was 'pleased with the impact all the substitutes made'

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has defended his replacement strategy in Saturday's 26-24 RBS 6 Nations defeat by France in Paris.

Lancaster has been criticised for extensive use of his bench in the second half of a thrilling and chaotic Paris showdown, with the 62nd-minute departure of the lively Danny Care the biggest subject of debate.

Sir Clive Woodward, one of Lancaster's predecessors as England head coach, blamed the substitutions for the defeat and stated that the "responsibility falls on the management not the players".

A defiant Lancaster responded to his critics by declaring it was a disastrous start that saw France establish a 16-3 lead with two tries from Yoann Huget that resulted in the defeat.

"I don't think the replacements were the reason we lost the game. I was certainly pleased with the impact all the substitutes made," he said.

"The biggest reason we lost the game was the start more than anything else. To be 16-3 down is one hell of a mountain to climb in that arena.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing in every component piece of the game.

"If we'd have dealt with the kick-off, perhaps we wouldn't have conceded the first try.

"If Danny Care had been 1mm further forwards perhaps he would have scored that try. There are lots of ifs, buts and maybes about the game.

"I have to trust the squad and the one thing I've learnt is that we win and lose as a team.

"I won't hang anyone out to dry or look at any decision we made in any other context than what we do next to help the team win."

A frantic Six Nations opener produced a ball-in-play statistic of 46 minutes - the figure was 38 minutes against New Zealand last autumn - while Courtney Lawes and Jonny May departed only because of injury

Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell and Tom Wood were struck by cramp in the second half, and Lancaster added: "The amount of cramping was a reflection of the game. It was a match played at the highest intensity - the longest in duration in my time.

"It's a significant step-up for a lot of players on what they do week in week out at their clubs, or even in Europe.

"It's something we need to review and look at. If there's anything we can do to prevent, we're doing it.

"But it's happened to Owen a couple of times. He takes everything that you do for cramp."

Gloucester wing May is seeing a specialist late on Monday afternoon after sustaining damage to his nose, but Lancaster is "cautiously optimistic" he will be fit to face Scotland on Saturday.

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