Saturday 3 December 2016

Lancaster lacked experience at top level

Published 14/11/2015 | 02:30

Stuart Lancaster lacked experience at the top level of rugby
Stuart Lancaster lacked experience at the top level of rugby

By common consent, Stuart Lancaster is one of the good guys. In his role as head coach to England he has been the proverbial workaholic, conscientious and diligent in everything he did in order to make England the best.

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In the end he failed and given the global stage on which he flunked his lines, his removal this week (which it assuredly is) was as predictable as it was inevitable. The message for aspiring coaches everywhere is NOT that a non former playing great can’t do it but IS that no one – not even a previous World Cup winner – can learn the art of coaching at the highest level on the job.

Look back no further than Lancaster’s immediate predecessor Martin Johnson for proof that it’s impossible to make the transition to coaching at the top if you haven’t served that all-important apprenticeship along the way.

While the lesson for the English Rugby Union is that coaching experience must be the major criterion going forward, it does not in any way suggest that in order to be a great coach you need to have been a great player. It does however underline the reality that respect is built over a long period of time.

Michael Cheika may be the much-sought-after new kid on the block but his stripes have been earned and in both hemispheres over the best part of two decades in Australia, Ireland, France and Italy. There is no substitute for experience and no short cut to that experience.

Lancaster steadied a badly sinking ship. He deserves better days ahead.

Irish Independent

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