After the departure of an England and British lion legend as England’s coach Martin Johnson the RFU are now rooting through the coaching prowess of numerous candidates to take on the role.
By England’s standard the 2011 rugby world cup was seen as a huge disaster considering that in the 5 previous world cups they reached 3 finals, crowned champs in 2003, runners up in 1991 and 2007 even coming 4th in 1995. But with the early exit in the quarter finals from the 2011 tournament, the pressure was on Johnson to review his position. The 2011 RWC was blighted by incidents of poor behavior by the squad, which transpired onto the way they played on the field.
Rather than rush an appointment, the decision is to take their time to find the best man for the job and since the departure of Johnson the RFU have appointed an interim management squad that took England through the RBS 6 Nations.
With the interim coaching team announced on 8th of December the squad was immediately overhauled and some fresh new faces appeared after a few of the old guard were dropped. Stuart Lancaster was made the head of the interim squad aided by his two assistants- Graham Roundtree and Andy Farrell.
The RFU poached Lancaster from Leeds after he introduced some young players as the academy manager and as their Director of Rugby in 2006 took Leeds back to the premiership. Lancaster a level 5 ranked coach has worked his way through the ranks to take the helm as England’s short term head coach and since 2008 as England’s Head of Elite Player Development he’s had some serious success;
- Saxons 3 Churchill cup victories 08,10,11
- u20’s 5 junior world cup finals, 2011 6nations gladslam
- u18’s a fully impressive set of results
While he accepted the interim role it was believed it was until a long term manager/coach is found, but now his name is being bounced about for the full job. The RFU are looking to develop the EPS to be ready for the 2015 rugby world cup and this is what Lancaster is all about!
Through the 6 nations many did not expect this England squad to perform at all! The first 2 games were 2 close shaves, but they came out victorious. What many would call the test came next, the gladiatorial bout against Wales. With a young, dynamic and strong team Wales were deemed the odds on favourites for the Grand Slam.
England a reworked and new crew were expected to roll over and concede victory. The match was far from one sided and the unfortunate break away try saw the Welsh win the fixture by 7.
Although Strettle’s disallowed try at the end would of seen a monumental kick needed from Farrell. Yes a loss but suddenly the talk was that Lancaster was starting to make a difference in the English style of play. So up step the inconsistent French, which side would turn up to play? The French having won their first 3 games again the same as the Welsh were favourites to turn England over.
But England on this occasion were having none of it! 2 early well worked and well executed tries for Tuilangi and Foden saw Lancaster’s hopefuls in a strong position. After possibly the most entertaining fixture of the tournament England held on to win 22-24.
Suddenly going into what could possibly be Lancaster’s last stand- England v Ireland. A St Patrick’s day fixture seen as the grand finale at Twickenham stadium. By the time the game came to be kicked off we knew Wales were the ‘Grand Slam Champions’. It was all about the pride now and who could finish second to Wales.
A soggy day at HQ ensured a game that would see a multitude of handling errors and as the first half came to a close it was England leading 9-3, but at the death of the half England messed about too long with the ball giving Sexton a chance to pop over another 3 points finishing up 9-6.
To follow was a true display of dominance and the realisation what Lancaster has done to the team. England near enough demoralised the Irish forwards, eventually forcing a penalty try. An individual moment of opportunity saw Youngs run in the only try and with Farrell’s boot in full working order England ground out 30-9 winners.
After the general improvement of the team many are now calling for Lancaster to be handed the role of full time head coach. This ranges from players, ex-players to fans championing Lancaster for the position.
For all the accolades he is reaping the decision comes down to a select few; Ian Ritchie, Rob Andrew, Conor O’Shea, Sir Ian McGeechan and Kevin Bowring.
The professional game board almost sounds like the opening of an old stereotypical joke…..2 Englishmen, an Irishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman!
With the panel being headed up by Ian Ritchie the RFU chief executive, he’s joined by ex-England flyhalf now professional rugby director at the RFU. Then comes the foreign contingent; The Scot comes in the form of Sir Ian McGeechan, Bath’s director of rugby and ex Scotland and legendary lions coach. Irishman Conor O’Shea is an ex Irish full back now Quins director of rugby, both on the panel as premiership representatives. The final piece to the Lionesque panel is filled by Welshman Kevin Bowring, appointed as first full time coach for Wales now working for RFU as head of elite coach development.
Surely after the strong campaign of the RBS 6 Nations Lancaster should be considered highly by this panel as the full time appointment. Since the final whistle blew ending the championship for another year even Lancaster ‘s main challenging opposition Nick Mallett has said he thinks Lancaster is right for the role.
A passionate and powerful speech from his right hand man Graham Roundtree saying he’s never been in such a passionate and close England set up, surely backs up what everybody else feels.
But can the RFU take the gamble and have the guts to appoint Lancaster as the next England full time EPS coach??