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England must deliver at World Cup, demands Ritchie
ESPN Staff
March 23, 2015
A scintillating display against France could not rescue the Six Nations for England, runners-up for a fourth straight year © Getty Images
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Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has called on England to deliver at the Rugby World Cup, branding their four years without a Six Nations win 'unacceptable'.

England's 55-35 win over France was not enough to deny Ireland overall victory on a dramatic final day of the championship as Stuart Lancaster's side finished runners-up for the fourth consecutive season.

And while Ritchie gave Lancaster his backing, he admitted that the host nation's failure to reach the projections expected of them as the World Cup comes into view was a disappointment.

"Four years as runners-up is not acceptable and we are not happy with how that came about," Ritchie said. "We should be, as a country, winning more in terms of Grand Slams, Six Nations championships, other things.

"We remain confident, optimistic, of belief that we can do well in the Rugby World Cup. What happened on Saturday reinforced elements of that and (we) remain absolutely confident, happy and committed with the team that we've got on the coaching staff."

The RFU had targeted a top-two IRB ranking by the time England emerged from the Six Nations; they currently sit fourth behind New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland.

"Targets are always a helpful thing, but they're not the be-all and end-all," Ritchie said. "You've got to look around at the totality of what's going on, where we are and what we believe.

"Have we missed some targets? Well, yes. We wanted to win the Six Nations. We wanted to be ranked two in the world.

"I still think the underlying situation is one that is important," he added. "I'm not trying to be unrealistic about that, through rose-coloured spectacles. I'm just trying to be balanced."

Asked if he regretted offering Lancaster a six-year deal that keeps him in the England role until 2020, Ritchie said: "No." But the chief executive emphasised that England should expect to arrive at the Rugby World Cup as contenders for a second triumph.

"I don't think we're in a development phase. We should be going into every game, doing our utmost to win and to win well. We've got the resources, the talent, the ability. Saturday was a fantastic example of that. We've got to make sure we come out for the World Cup and deliver."

England face Wales and Australia in World Cup Group A, and kick off against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18.

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