Positive vibes hard to ignore as Lancaster takes over

It was hard not to leave Twickenham yesterday feeling optimistic. Perhaps it was the good mood among the various stragglers leaving the ground following the Varsity Match, but after Stuart Lancaster spoke first alongside his new coaching partners Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree and then on his own, it was hard not to be convinced.

The combination of Rowntree’s obvious pain at what happened in New Zealand, and the optimism of Lancaster and Farrell should stand England in good stead, not least because the three appear to be tightly-bonded, something that Lancaster stated had not been the case in the past. “You could see there’s been too many people involved before. We want to keep it tight, but we will have specialist support in some key areas, such as kicking where we plan to bring in Jon Callard.”

The breakdown will be that Lancaster will be Head Coach, Rowntree in charge of the forwards, with Farrell covering backs and defence. The last name in that mix was a surprise pick to most, and Farrell confessed that he would have never dreamed of coaching his country in the XV man game when he was a League superstar at Wigan. There will be a review of what went wrong at the World Cup in January, but then that will be that and the players will be straight on the training pitch.

Truthfully, Lancaster made you feel more at ease about where England were going. Everything, from philosophy to playing style to potential selection, seemed well thought out and clear. Who would be his captain for the first game? “That will be decided after the January camp. We want to have a leadership group of not necessarily senior players, 7 or 8, and to see how they work with the coaches and gameplan. Then a decision will be made.”

That sort of clarity with the media was something rarely found in Johnson’s regime, especially towards the end. All of the ‘classic’ lines such as “restoring pride in the shirt”, “picking players on form”, did not feel clichéd, but genuine. Perhaps it’s Lancaster’s background as a school teacher that will stand him well in this stead. Strict but honest, his knowledge of the senior players is something that is a huge bonus, though unlike Johnson it has been acquired as a coach rather than playing alongside them.

“If you talk about a Danny Care, who I’ve coached since I was 15, all of those players that have come through have been coached by me. I know them, and I know them well, and it’s been nice today to have texts from them. It’s a big responsibility, but what a fantastic one.” The reality is that right now Lancaster essentially has two months, and from the last game of the Six Nations against Ireland at Twickenham, who knows what will happen. The one aspect however that he wants to ensure, is that by the time England tour South Africa in the summer, there will be a solid foundation looking forward ahead to the next Rugby World Cup.

Perhaps the most encouraging note that Lancaster ended the press conference was that England have a huge pool of exceptional talent, but they would need to work hard to wear the shirt. “I was up coaching U11s in Leeds last night before I got the call to come down. The pride in playing for England that you see in grassroots rugby is something we need to get back. I’m a school-teacher, and I think environment dictates behaviour. I spent my first 20 years growing up in Cumbria, and next 20 working in Yorkshire. If there’s anything I’ve learned, you don’t get ‘nowt for ‘owt.”

by Ben Coles

14 thoughts on “Positive vibes hard to ignore as Lancaster takes over

  1. I for one, am really looking forward to seeing what Stuart Lancaster can do with the team. He’s done a brilliant job with the Saxons and hopefully he can do the same for the senior team now. Very interested to see if they keep the same group of players, or if they have the balls to bring through players that should be in the EPS. Also, does anyone know if the “interim” management/coaching team stand to get the permanent position if they do a good job? Hoping to see a team looking something like this for the 6N’s. Thoughts?

    1. Corbisiero
    2. Hartley
    3. Cole
    4. Lawes
    5. Attwood
    6. Wood
    7. Robshaw (c)
    8. Dowson
    9. Youngs
    10. Flood
    11. Sharples
    12. Barritt/Twelvetrees
    13. Tuilagi
    14. Ashton
    15. Foden

    16. Joe Gray/Jamie George
    17. Marler/Stevens
    18. Gaskell/Robson/Botha
    19. Croft/Narraway
    20. Care
    21. Farrel
    22. Brown/Goode

    1. I think that the broad make up of your team is what most people expect. There will always be an argument in favour of this player or that one. On the whole an exciting young team with a huge amount of potential. Hope they don’t need too long to gel and fulfill that potential.

      As for the coaching set up, I reckon the RFU has already decided on Mallett and they just need to go through the motions of a search. Shame really, as you would have liked to have thought that if Lancaster and his team did a really good job, that they would be in consideration for the full time role. Nothing against Mallett but if something is working why change it. Of course the six nations could be a disaster with infighting and coaches resigning and we might welcome Mallett (or someone else!!) as the great saviour. Who knows? I think that most of us are secretly (or overtly) excited about a new start and hoping that it will brush away all of the problems that have beset the team! I don’t suppose that they will but any step in the right direction is something to be excited about.

    2. Tommy, just seeing that 6/7/8 combination is enticing! How refreshing that would be. Can’t wait to see what this coaching team can do.

      1. Agreed. What a great back row combo that would be.

        All 3 of them have an incredible work rate, they are all quick and each of them has good hands and a a great rugby brain

        What a change it would be from players like Worsley, Moody, Haskell, etc, etc. Good players though they are, I don’t think any of them could be descibed as having a great brain for rugby

      2. As a Saints fan I would usually commend Dowson. However, he is not a No8 he is a 6 and will be nearly 35 years old at the next RWC!
        I think Robshaw could make the switch to 8 which would then allow Croft in at 6

  2. This is what our new head coach says folks… “We want players who have pride in the shirt, pride in the rose. We want players who recognise that and buy into that.
    “We’ve got to get the culture right, the ethics right, get players to recognise their responsibilities and get it all back on track.
    “We want them to be desperate to play for England. It serves no purpose to blame and we want a sense that we are all in this together. If they don’t tick the character and talent box, they won’t get picked.
    “We need to select people who have talent and character, who are hungry and ambitious to achieve, who want to go on to be and beat the best,” he said. “We have a huge pool of talent in this country who can take that step. I want players who have responsibility and pride in the shirt and the rose. If you get talented players in the right place, we have the responsibility to to engage them and provide them with the motivation to be the best.


    Come On Englaaaaaaaaaand ! !

  3. Personally i would have Farrell at 10 – Flood is like a rabit in the headlights in big games, and IMO hes not an international 10, just a good club 10 playing for England because the old coaching team couldnt see past him to the other options

  4. R120, I agree about Farrell being my preferred choice at 10, though I think he’d benefit from being introduced into the international stage as a sub for his first few caps. As for Dowson A_K, i think you will find he’s actually a no.8, who plays 6 (like Dallaglio), though agree his age may be against him. Possibly switch Dowson and Robshaw around, with Croft (or whoever) succeeding Dowson?

  5. Farrell is overrated but i’d imagine he’ll get into the team seen as Daddy will have some say in picking it.
    I also think while Robshaw is a good captain at Quins, England should pick someone who has been in the team already, most likely Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley or Ben Foden

  6. I expect England to be competitive but I think France are gonna win it this year. They won’t get the slam though – I think :/

  7. I’m also keen to see the coaching and playing teams reorganised, and look forward to see what England look like in the next 6 nations. But I’m not sure I understand the presence of Farrell. He was not really outstanding for England in the union game, certainly far from first choice in any position, and most of his experience is in league. I wonder if there isn’t a more appropriate third member of the coaching team.

  8. Kentucky,
    I’ve just read your comment and laughed out loud as you clearly know very little about Farrell or rugby league. Farrell was way past his best when he came to rugby union but still made the England team, granted there was not much competition at the time. Are you aware he played for great Britain at 17 and during his time played loose forward and standoff as well kicking goals? For many years he was amongst the worlds best league players and a natural born winner. For those lamenting Edwards coaching Wales this is an ideal opportunity to have our own version yet you can question this? Lancaster deserves huge credit for this decision as many coaches shy away from bringing in top people as they see them as a potential threat to their own position. So have an open mind and give him a chance.

  9. As you imply, I’m mostly knowledgeable about union – although you get what you pay for in a blog about union surely. I note, as previously, Farrell’s expertise and achievement as a rugby league player. He was indeed a league star of the nineties. But I do think he showed little flair in adapting to the union game and can only hope that his Saracens coaching experience has allowed him to develop ideas on attacking play in the union game, since he expressed very few of them as a union player. Saracens have developed more attacking flair in the recent past. But as Jason Robinson recently said in interview, there’s not much mileage in comparing achievements in league and union because they are completely different games. I wish Farrell and the England team well.

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