Updated: Tuesday, 04 February 2014 02:14 | By Agence France-Presse

Lancaster defends subs policy after Woodward attack

England coach Stuart Lancaster hit back at criticism of his substitute policy after Clive Woodward said it had caused the team's 26-24 defeat by France in their Six Nations opener in Paris on Saturday.

Lancaster defends subs policy after Woodward attack

England's captain Chris Robshaw (L) and head coach Stuart Lancaster (R) pose with the trophy during the official launch of the 2014 Six Nations International rugby tournament at the Hurlingham Club in London on January 22, 2014 - by Adrian Dennis

Woodward, England's World Cup-winning boss in 2003, used his column in Monday's Daily Mail to attack Lancaster's use of replacements in the final quarter, particularly the departure of scrum-half Danny Care.

"The substitutions coast England the game and that responsibility falls on the management not the players," Woodward wrote.

"There were fundamental coaching errors, the players did not deserve it and it is time to wise up," the former England and British and Irish Lions centre added.

But Lancaster insisted Monday the defeat was down to a wretched start that saw England fall 16-3 behind following two tries by France's Yoann Huget. 

"I don't think the replacements were the reason we lost the game. I was certainly pleased with the impact all the substitutes made," Lancaster 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," he added following England's return to their Bagshot training base, south-west of London.

"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."

Woodward also questioned why several England players suffered from cramp at the Stade de France, saying that if the side were to stand any chance of winning the World Cup on home soil next year they had to be "the world's fittest and most powerful team".

Fly-half Owen Farrell, debutant wing Jack Nowell and back-row forward Tom Wood all succumbed in Paris but Lancaster put it down to the demands of a helter-skelter match that produced an unusual ball in play statistic of 46 minutes. 

"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," Lancaster said.

"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 here's anything we can do to prevent, we're doing it."

England will look to get their Six Nations campaign back on track against Scotland, beaten 28-6 by Ireland in Dublin in their tournament opener, at Edinburgh's Murrayfield on Saturday.

Lancaster is due to name his side for the Calcutta Cup clash on Thursday.

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