Friday 15 December 2017

Rejuvenated Lancaster ready to commit to Leinster

Former England supremo has cleverly rebuilt his reputation with Blues following 'difficult period'

Stuart Lancester, pictured in Belfield yesterday, has commuted from Leeds to Dublin since joining Leinster Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Stuart Lancester, pictured in Belfield yesterday, has commuted from Leeds to Dublin since joining Leinster Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It isn't quite signed, sealed and delivered just yet but mere formalities remain as Stuart Lancaster prepares to put pen to paper on a contract extension that will see him remain with Leinster for at least the next two years.

For a man who arrived in Ireland with his reputation in tatters following England's failed World Cup, Lancaster has cleverly gone about restoring his name.

Speak to any of the Leinster players about what the main difference between this season and last is, and Lancaster's name will invariably be mentioned.

Eyebrows were raised in certain quarters when Leinster appointed Lancaster as a senior coach last September but whether it has been in his dealings with the players or the media, the 47-year-old has been a breath of fresh air.

The offers in the last five months haven't been in short supply and while Lancaster has been repeatedly linked with vacant positions back home, he has never spoken with an English club.


Instead, his focus has remained on Leinster, and the performances this season speak for themselves. Lancaster and Leo Cullen have worked well together and the former England head coach is determined to continue that for the foreseeable future.

"There's no reason why I won't, let's put it that way. " Lancaster smiled when asked if he was about to sign a contract extension.

"I've really enjoyed my time here. I think I've been consistent from the start by saying that. It's been good for the family. It really works well, the coaching dynamic. I enjoy working with Leo and Girv (Dempsey) and Fogs (Fogarty). We complement each other.

"It's been great. When I came in I said to Leo, 'How is it going to work with me coming in and trying to fit between Leo and Girvan, Fogs?' It's complementary to everyone's strengths.

"I think the players are great and the city is fantastic. The club is really strong with European ambitions and Pro12 ambitions. It's where I want to be. I'm certainly not looking elsewhere.

"Leo has allowed me to get involved in the coaching. I've tried to support him with some head coaching stuff. Girv and Fogs have allowed me to support them as well. The club is very well set up. It is a top European club.

"I guess what surprised me is the strength and depth and the quality of the players coming through. One of the reasons why I am keen to stay on is not just short-term team being successful - I can see a long-term future for the club that is exciting because of the quality of the players that are here, because of the environment."

Lancaster has commuted from Leeds to Dublin and will continue to do so when he dots the i's and crosses the t's on his new contract. With a family back home, the idea of uprooting them at this stage of their lives isn't practical but neither he nor Leinster envisage the commute ever being an issue.

"I am going to have to (commute) because my kids are 16 and 15. To relocate would be too difficult for them during their exam periods. I had a good long chat about the various options that could be taken and they wanted (me) to stay here as well. It ticks all the boxes."

Ever since Lancaster arrived in Dublin, it looks like a weight has lifted off his shoulders, particularly compared to his final days with England.

Now in demand, Leinster securing him for another two years is a shrewd piece of business; it is a move that makes a lot of sense for both parties.

"I don't think I've ever lost my enthusiasm to coach," Lancaster added. "Clearly there was a difficult period. After the World Cup what I tried to do was just get back into coaching.

"I did a lot of coaching behind the scenes in Yorkshire that people weren't aware of - a lot of schools, a lot of clubs.

"Then my coaching took me to Counties Manukau, which I enjoyed doing. I did the work in America, trying to help them develop their professional league. Even when I've been doing this job, I've gone back and helped out the Yorkshire U-16s, and West Park Leeds is still there as well.

"I never lost the passion to coach."

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