Lancaster must continue rapid ascent to dissuade doubters

Less that two weeks after England defeated Ireland at Twickenham, Stuart Lancaster was back at the ground for the RFU to confirm he would be head coach until 2016. There perhaps has been in the recent weeks a sense of an inevitability amongst those in the stands and those in the media that Lancaster would have to be appointed, essentially on the back of the wins in Paris and against Ireland.

Having done enough to impress Ian Ritchie, the advisers, the committee and the board, Lancaster will now be in charge until the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Nick Mallett’s wealth of experience dwarfs that of the new England coach, but the work he has done in unifying a group of largely new players to Test rugby is exemplary. To have undone that hard work by appointing Mallett might have meant the Six Nations had been a waste of time.

What has become clear over the last few days is that the RFU do not feel they are walking into the same bear-trap as with Martin Johnson. Lancaster’s coaching experience may be little, but at least there is some basis from which to work. His clarity of communication and strong relationship with his players is a world away from the World Cup disintegration.

What leaves you encouraged is the hunger to move forward. The last eight weeks have been all about laying the foundations to progress, but over the next seven games, if England can win five of those then it will be hard to criticise the new regime. By bringing in Wayne Smith, they would go some way to quelling the current hissing about a lack of key international experience after his 8 years with the All Blacks.

Those seven matches see England take on South Africa four times, world champions New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. Never has turning Twickenham into a fortress mattered more than now in the build-up to a World Cup on home soil. More immediately, to pick up a first away win in South Africa since 2000 would be enormous, let alone if England won the series. Whatever the result, there is little doubt that no detail will have not been thoroughly examined by Lancaster. England feel as though they are in good hands. If they keep winning, their new coach’s rise to the top will be truly remarkable.

by Ben Coles

Video courtesy of Rugby Media

5 thoughts on “Lancaster must continue rapid ascent to dissuade doubters

  1. Whoever had the idea for this big summer tour including the midweek fixtures, good job!

    Great opportunity to test out a lot of players so hopefully come the AIs we can look at the teamsheet and see the core of a potential RWC team (assuming no injuries emergence of new superstars I’ve got 4, maybe 5, 2015 bankers from the 6N)

    I don’t mind coming back without a test win. Even a humping in one of the games may not be a bad thing long term to see how the team deal with adversity. But we must play some rugby, we must pose some difficult questions in attack, we must have the confidence to not hoof too much ball in the air and we must offer as much, if not more than, SA in terms of creative play.

  2. I think 5 wins is a pretty high benchmark to set for a new team, Ben. As I’ve said before England should never be in a rebuilding phase but due to the errors of recent years we are and have to adjust our sights accordingly. Playing the Tri-Nations teams is a whole different level of intensity to playing a poor Scotland and Italy, a temperamental France and a (on that specific day) shambolic Ireland. A far more internationally experienced coach would struggle to hit that target so I don’t think we should hammer Lancaster if we suffer a few defeats, much as it pains me to say it. And we certainly shouldn’t suddenly use his international inexperience (he has lots of other coaching experience) as a stick to beat him with. If we lose a few there will be many other reasons aside from that.

    You are absolutely right about making Twickenham a fortress and we should be looking to win 3 of the 4 autumn internationals. If we sneak a win in SA then 4 from 7 would be a strong performance given where we are. 3 might be qacceptable depending on performances and how good the Tri-Nations turn out to be the year after a World Cup.

    As I say I think there is rarely any excuse for England losing many games but given where we are through the compounding of errors on errors in recent years, we kind of have to swallow it.

  3. Broadly I agree with Matt.

    England need to build on the strengths they’ve shown this season and develop their areas of weakness. Wins are still important though, I think everyone everywhere is sick of the phrase ‘we’re building towards the next RWC’. The most important test is the next one.

    As an Australian I’ve enjoyed watching England’s success this year, not only because they’ve swept away the air of entitlement that the team and many of their supporters (sorry fellas) had been parading since 2003, but also because they’ve finally decided how they want to play and the powers that be finally have the guts to drop players that don’t fit or aren’t performing. That will set this team in good stead for 2015, but the key is to be competitve always. The Kiwis know that, which is why they’re number 1.

    1. Agree, not going with the expectation to lose and no “rebuilding phase” cliches. But coming back without a win doesn’t mean panic buttons (Wales and Ireland have never won in SA, Aus only have a 25% win ratio, it’s a very difficult place to get a win) provided we can see progress on the pitch. Big changes for SA as well, but looking at the super 15 results I’m anticipating we will be facing a very good SA, so any wins or draws would be outstanding results.

      For Autumn I think we need 1 win over a SH team with a scrum, i.e. NZ or SA. Whilst a win pushing an Aussie scrum around the hallowed turf would be great it won’t tell us too much more about the development of the team. If no wins against the big 3 in the AIs then I think we are well behind where we need to be in the 3.5 year plan.

  4. Lancaster has shown great coaching to get England to where they are after a shambolic world cup. We need at least 2 wins on tour to really raise confidence in the team, and the supporters. 4 wins ths year is what I would expect from a talented side with a strong leader at the helm.

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