Wednesday 11 December 2019

'Ireland didn't execute in the big moments' - Stuart Lancaster calls for honest review of World Cup failure

Leinster coach believes IRFU must have open and honest review of Irish World Cup failure in order to move forward

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster during a Leinster Rugby press conference at the team's headquarters in UCD, Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster during a Leinster Rugby press conference at the team's headquarters in UCD, Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

This time four years ago, Stuart Lancaster was still coming to terms with what was the most difficult time of his coaching career.

The review into why England had spectacularly failed at their home World Cup was an arduous process, but one in which all parties accepted that it was important in order to move forward.

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Lancaster knew he wasn't going to be part of the future set-up, but he was still required to take part in the review. That can't have been easy.

He can certainly relate to the situation Joe Schmidt finds himself in now as the IRFU begin their deep dive into yet another quarter-final elimination.

Four years on after no one was spared by the RFU in their attempts to begin a new era, England reached the World Cup final only to fall short against South Africa.

Lancaster has rebuilt his reputation since that disastrous campaign and as he will play a central role in Ireland overcoming that disappointment, the 50-year-old has encouraged an open and honest review process.

"I was involved in it (in 2015)," the Leinster senior coach recalled.

"I'm a big fan of reviewing everything. The 2015 World Cup was no different. We sat down and you review your selection decisions, you review your camp, you review the training you did in the camp, the warm-up games, you review the logistics, the medical, the S&C. Everything needs to be reviewed and learned.

"I don't know how it works in Ireland but I know in England I was involved in that in every tournament and competition. You do it because you want to get better.

"I hope they take the learning from it. I hope they do it in a very constructive way and I hope it benefits the new coaching team because I for one will be giving them everything I possibly can to help them succeed.

"The other thing is whatever happens, you have to have a really clear review process to look at all the reasons why maybe you didn't win a game and, let's be fair, there's only one team that won this World Cup. Everyone else will be looking at themselves thinking, 'Why did we lose?'

"So, the review process is as important and knowing Andy (Farrell) as I do, and knowing Joe as I do, to be honest, I'd be amazed if they're not having a really detailed, forensic review to look at what they can do better because it comes very quickly again.

"The Six Nations is almost… you know Andy will be thinking about his squad, there's a camp later on this month, there's a camp in January and before you know it, you're into it again."

Ireland's style of play has come under the spotlight after their game-plan was ruthlessly exposed by Japan and New Zealand.

The warning signs had been evident throughout this year and although Lancaster dismissed Brian O'Driscoll's suggestion that Leinster's different approach had a negative impact on Ireland's World Cup campaign, he admitted there is never a right or wrong way to play the game.

"I remember doing a presentation," Lancaster explained.

"It must have been 2010 when I was running the Academy programme in England and I compared to the Academy managers the playing styles of the top four teams in the (Premiership) semi-finals that year.

"My point was, of the top four who were in the semi-finals that particular year, all four teams played a different style and my point to the Academy managers was there is no right or wrong way to play the game. There is no right or wrong way to win the game.

"What is important is that you have a real clear philosophy on how you want to play the game, what you believe in and you have got to be able to execute that under pressure in the big moments.

"I don't think Leinster play different to Munster, play differently to Ulster, play different to Connacht. There's no right or wrong way.

"What you've got to do is execute when it comes to World Cups and what I've found to my experience, if you don't execute in the big pressure moments, you don't get a second chance and that's the reality of it.

"For Ireland, that was the way it played out unfortunately.

"But moving forward I've got a really good relationship with Andy Farrell. I was thinking about it the other day.

"Andy and I started working together in 2010. Mike Catt and I coached together for four years in England. Simon Easterby and I played rugby together when were with Leeds back in '97 and John Fogarty was here.

"So that's not to say they will play the same way as Leinster."

Leinster have started the season in such impressive fashion that it will provide the returning international players a chance to breathe again after the claustrophobic nature of the World Cup.

They have all spoken extremely highly of what Lancaster has brought to the set-up and he will be on hand to help his former colleague Farrell if ever he needs to lean on him in what is his first gig as head coach.

That healing process will continue on Saturday when Leinster host Benetton in the Champions Cup opener, with Lancaster expecting his side to maintain their excellent run of form, which has seen them win all six games this season with five bonus points garnered along the way.

"What's happened is the lads have come back from the World Cup, there's been no hangover because they can't afford it," he added.

"They realise that if they don't perform in training, they're not going to get picked in the team.

"The gap has narrowed between those lads who have been involved with Ireland and with those lads who want to play for Ireland and also play for Leinster."

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