Tuesday 17 January 2017

World Cup disappointment will be with me forever - Lancaster

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

Stuart Lancaster has joined Leinster as a member of their senior coaching team. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Stuart Lancaster has joined Leinster as a member of their senior coaching team. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

A year ago yesterday, Stuart Lancaster guided his England side to a comprehensive 21-13 win over Ireland in their final World Cup warm-up at Twickenham.

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Confidence surged through the tournament's host country, but it would prove to be a false dawn. Twelve months later, as he sat smiling in UCD alongside his new boss, Leo Cullen, Lancaster would be forgiven for wondering what went wrong.

Over the course of the last nine months, he has spent time with NFL franchise Atlanta Falcons and New Zealand side Counties Manukau as he weighed up his next move. He is still working with British Sport and British Cycling.

Ideally, he would have transferred to the southern hemisphere for a few years but his teenage children are entering a critical stage of their education, and the 45-minute flight from Leeds-Bradford to Dublin was far more feasible.

As he watched his England players bounce back from their World Cup disappointment with a Grand Slam and clean sweep of Australia under Eddie Jones, he did so with a combination of pride and regret.

Now, Lancster begins his own road to redemption.

"Ultimately I was proud to have played a part in their development," he said.

"The disappointment of the World Cup will still be in us, all of us, as coaches and players, and I don't think that will go away.

"You get fantastic moments as a coach, and there's nothing better than giving a player his first cap and shaking his hand and saying, 'Well done, you're representing your country for the first time'.

"I did that probably 25 times if not more, such was the youth of the English team at that time.

"To see those players grow into the senior players I knew they would become and drive the team under Eddie's guidance. . . I'm delighted for them.

"I'm sure they'll go on to be successful, I always felt that they would. I always felt the period for England would be successful was between 2015 and 2019.

"The Lions will be a key target for everyone this year but my job is to get these Leinster boys ready and playing well for Leinster, playing well for Ireland and trying to get that Lions selection."

Getting Leinster back to the top is his key priority and despite a disastrous Champions Cup performance last season, Lancaster does not believe his new team are far away from returning to their position as "the dominant force in European rugby".

"I don't think very far at all," he said. "It is a very difficult competition to win.

"I know a lot about Saracens, for example. I know a lot of the fundamentals that underpin that club. Leinster have got all the foundations in place. Why not? You look at the quality of the team, the coaching environment .

"I have to appreciate how the players sometimes have to work between club and country.

"That is not to say the Pro12 is not a target. Having got to the final only to lose, I'm sure the burning desire is to win it this year."

Highs and lows of former England coach

Highs

Won the Triple Crown (2014)

Lancaster led England to four second-place Six Nations finishes in his tenure from 2012-15 but the high point arrived in 2014, when they claimed the Triple Crown.

Their 20-0 victory over Scotland was the first time since 1928 that England held the Scots scoreless.

Guided Leeds Tykes to promotion (2006-07)

In his first season in charge of Leeds Tykes (now Yorkshire Carnegie), Lancaster steered the club back to the top flight of English rugby.

Lancaster had seen his reputation grow with the club's Academy and he carried that through with the senior team as they finished top of National Division One table, having lost just four of their 30 league games.

The following season, Leeds were relegated.

Lows

Oversaw England's disastrous World Cup campaign (2015)

Confidence was high in England leading up to last year's World Cup but the hosts' campaign was an utter disaster.

The warning signs had been there however as England racked up a five-game losing streak in 2014 before they became the first ever host nation to fail to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup.

Lancaster came under huge pressure for several aspects of the failure, including the way in which he parachuted Sam Burgess into the squad and particularly in the way that defence coach Andy Farrell's influence became so much that his son Owen Farrell was picked ahead of George Ford, who had seemingly been Lancaster's first-choice out-half.

Lancaster was sacked after the World Cup, despite his contract running until 2020.

Irish Independent

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