ENGLAND COACH STUART Lancaster has endorsed the format of his team’s expanded tour of South Africa.
In previous tours, England’s second-tier players have lined up for the Saxons in Churchill Cup matches.
This year, Lancaster named a 42-man squad for the three-Test series against the Springboks, allowing for additional tour matches against the Northern and Southern Barbarians.
And the 42-year-old, himself a former Saxons coach, believes the benefits of the new system are already apparent.
“There are pros and cons to doing this, as I have said before,” Lancaster said, referring to the new tour structure.
“But this time last year I was coaching the Saxons at the Churchill Cup and now the Churchill Cup has finished.
“Now I have got the opportunity to take 40-odd players and work on them together.
“Although it is not without its challenges, from a personal point of view I prefer this. You also learn a lot about players – that is a big part of it.
“We want to be in a position, by the time we get round to the autumn internationals, where we have a very clear idea about which players we think can go on and play at the highest level for the next three years.”
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has led his team to victories over England in both of his first two matches in charge of the Springboks, but believes counterpart Lancaster is already producing results in his fledgling tenure.
“The one thing that has impressed me about this England team is their resilience,” Meyer said.
“In the Six Nations there were a lot of times when they were put to the sword but they always came back. We know they are going to be tough on Saturday.
“Under the right leadership I think they will grow into a strong team and one of the top teams at the next World Cup.”