The Big Debate: Stuart Lancaster for England?

No sooner had the final whistle been blown on this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship than thoughts of England fans turned to the next Head Coach.

Stuart Lancaster

The big question is whether Stuart Lancaster, the interim manager, has done enough to justify being appointed to the full-time role over the course of the last few months, and the last 5 matches in particular.

His tenure began with an outstanding PR effort, returning a sense of humilty to the players by taking them to Leeds rather than the Algarve, reinforcing discipline by unceremoniously ejecting Danny Care and Delon Armitage for their misdemeanours, and picking a squad on form rather than reputation.

He swept aside England’s old guard of players and those closely associated with the Martin Johnson regime, treating them respectfully, but making it clear that this was a new era.

Then after two unconvincing wins in Edinburgh and Rome, a home defeat to Wales suggested that Lancaster may not be in the job for too long, despite the improved performance. But then England came to life in Paris and thrashed Ireland at home to finish 2nd in the table and leave some people convinced that Lancaster is the right man.

He seems to have the backing of the squad, having created a hard-working environment in a short space of time, whilst assistants Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell were unequivocal in their support for his candidacy on Monday.

The RFU has a dilemma on its hands. The public clamour for the RFU to hand him the reins on a full-time basis are growing louder every day, and the short-termism is reminiscent of the vociferous calls to appoint Martin Johnson several years ago.

However, the argument against appointing Lancaster is also reasonably compelling. His inexperience is the main factor counting against him, given he has never coached at international level, nor even at top-flight club level in the Heineken Cup. How will he fare when the pressure mounts, when he loses key players to injury, or when England suffers a heavy defeat? Nobody knows because he’s not been in that situation before.

Although the current mood is positive following the Six Nations campaign, a tough 3-match tour to South Africa is the next assignment for England, followed by a 4-match Autumn Internationals campaign against Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji.

A worst-case scenario – but one that is certainly feasible for this young side – would be 6 defeats out of the next 7 matches, and then how popular would Lancaster be? And would the public and press, currently calling for Lancaster, turn on RFU CEO Ian Ritchie to ask why he appointed a rookie coach?

Nick Mallett appears to be the other main contender for the position, and his CV appears to stack up more convincingly when you consider the challenges that lie ahead for England. He seems to be the more sensible long-term option, but will Ritchie go against public opinion for his first major decision?

What do you think? Vote in the poll and share your views below.

Who should be England Head Coach

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48 thoughts on “The Big Debate: Stuart Lancaster for England?

  1. SL has the dressing room .. he has the hearts and minds of the players and he has to quote Ediie Butler worked a miracle .. sure Mallett has international credentials but he hasn’t got what SL has .. and as to whether he’d get it is a gamble

  2. I think Lancaster has earned the right to be given a go. He has fostered an environment which the players and coaches have thrived in and seems to understand the building blocks needed to develop this squad.
    His experience should not be seen in a negative light after all Jake White’s CV prior to taking over the SA World Cup winning squad was very similar.

  3. There are countless reasons why England should pick Lancaster, not simply because it would show some humility not to make the Hollywood selection after the stag do that was the RWC.

    The bottom line for me is that is that Nick Mallett is probably a better coach, he is obviously a more experienced coach BUT the RFU have the perfect opportunity to send the right message out to everyone involved or supporting English rugby over the years and throughout the years to come.

    If Lanny doesn’t get the job then what incentive is there for any English coach, young or old with ambition. If a successful Saxons coach, who has performed so well in his debut 6 nations doesnt get the job then what is the point?!

    After the World Cup and with the natural transition period taking place you will never have a more understanding England support base to try something that isnt the absolute safety first option so not that I believe it is a risk because Lanny has proved his potential on and off the pitch already

    Ok, so my vote is for Lancaster

  4. I think one point that has been missed in the analysis from the media is the fact that if Lancaster is given the job on a permanent basis, it will mean he is learning the lessons of test rugby at the same time as his team is.

    However, this isn’t such a bad thing. Firstly, it will mean the “leadership group” he has created will be more inclined to suggest different strategies for games than if a big name such as Mallet was brought in (I suspect). This, in turn can help give that group a sense of ownership of the team in a way that hasn’t really happened over the last seven or eight years.

    Secondly, when the tactics don’t go right (which will happen at some point) it means he will be able to put his hands up and say “you know what, we made a mistake there and we have to work out what to do when put in that situation in future.” This is something that was missing from the Johnson regime.

    Lancaster is honest, hard working, no nonsense and isn’t going to sugar coat anything for anyone. For me this is a no brainer.

  5. Stuart Lancaster has more upside in my opinion and ultimately can take the team further but it might involve a few short term hiccups. He has turned around a failing team in short order and his players have played better as a team than the sum of their parts – which is the key ingredient of a coach as far as I am concerned. He has them playing to a clear game plan. My only concern is that he must appoint an experienced attack coach as that is what has been lacking in this 6n.

    However if the RFU appoints Mallet, so be it – he is a successful international coach and hopefully he can take England forward as well.

  6. Wow, I thought the vote would be closer than this. There really is overwhelming support for SL.

    Does anyone else think that the Six Nations tournament was fairly sub-standard in terms of quality? I think it went downhill from the excellent Ireland v Wales fixture in R1, and so is 2nd place in that context everything it’s cracked up to be?

    I’m cautious about Lancaster, because I remember getting carried away in the pro-Johnson campaign and look how that ended – and the reason for failure was inexperience.

    1. I’m surprised you’re surprised!

      You can’t compare SL to Johnson. MJ had no coaching experience at all and made very few changes to the squad. He also failed to act decisively when the rot started to set in. SL has done exactly the opposite.

    2. You also have to look at what the players are saying, considering the RFU have been so quiet on the appointment of Stuart and that everyone was expecting Mallett, I am blown away by the strength of support the players have given to the media.

      If this situation was occurring in the SRU, WRU, or IRU then EVERYONE would be ecstatic at having a home grown coach with this much potential, only the RFU can f this up now… and that is why there might still be 5 votes for Mallett above!!!!!

      1. MJ had resounding support from players post world cup, as Brian Moore pointed out at the time, players tend not to criticise the incumbent coach.

        Without doubt it’s a far happier camp, the players have clearly bought into the plans the coaches have had and this is a huge plus point. But I hope the views of players he is selecting don’t play too much part in the evaluation process.

    3. I’m generally dubious of results based on a 6N after a world cup. I remember 4 years ago, England losing at home to Wales, and away to Scotland and still coming away with 2nd place. I don’t think it’s representative. I’m not usually too negative towards England, but the results say a lot to me.
      Narrow win over Scotland – England with no ideas and limited defence, very lucky to beat a Scottish side who dropped the ball endlessly. Beaten up in territory and possession
      Narrow win over Italy – errors galore an panic. Nothing attractive or impressive about that win
      Home loss to Wales – Only the second time in 24 years and the last coach to lose that game got fired
      Away win over France – looked better, but the French side, similarly to their Ireland game the week before, looked tired, fed up and fractured
      Home win – Ireland – Exquisite scrum and Morgan and Croft were brilliant in the lose… did anything else happen in that game?

      1. Eng went to Murrayfield with a handful of caps a team that had never played together and in the most hostile of venues for an Eng team. They went in as underdogs yet managed to pull off a win and lay a defensive foundation. Against Italy they were playing in the snow and gifted 2 silly tries which made the game far closer than it should have been but even so had the resolve to fight back and win. Against Wales we stood toe to toe with the best side in the NH and but for one rip of possession would have drawn with them. We also started to show we had something in attack as well as defence. France game we confirmed that we could attack and had scrum as good as any. Ireland game was terrible conditions as proved by hanndling errors on both sides so it was never going to be a great game. All of that adds up to a very positive progression throughout the tournament, yes still lots of work to do but can be very happy with where the team is right now.

    4. The difference is Johnson had NO coaching experience. Lancaster actually has quite a lot of coaching experience, just not at his level. But you can’t compare his coaching ability to Johnsons. Just look at what he’s done with the Saxons in the last few years.

  7. Sir Clive Woodward was given the job with relatively little experience. In his first tour down under the England side were ripped to shreds to a degree that will not happen this summer in South Africa. Yes we may lose to South Africa, but you larn more lessons in defeat than you do in victory, and having a tough tour, followed by a tough winter session against the only 3 sides currently above England in the World Rankings, could be an invaluable, if tough, learning curve for this young England squad.

    Irrespective of who takes charge, we could lose 6 out of our next 7 games. If Lancaster is given the job, he will have a record under him of P12, W5, L7 if that is the case, whereas if Mallett were to come in we would go into next year’s 6 Nations with a P7, W1, L6 record under the new coach, and the media screaming where is the next win coming from.

    I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it would be a massive admission of a failing system if the biggest and richest Union in World Rugby, a side ranked 4th in the World, had to look abroad for a coach.

    Lancaster all the way.

    1. Wales, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have all had coaches from abroad and I’d argue that failing to take on a good foreign coach implies poverty and unattractiveness of working for the RFU. In fact, I consider it an embarrassment that England have put feelers out world wide and have attracted real interest from only 3 coaches with real international experience… and one of them was Eddie O’Sullivan

      1. New Zealand haven’t
        South Africa haven’t

        Kirwan had real international experience. Which other coaches out there with “Real International experience” should/could have applied? Do you have a full list of applicants?

        1. Eddie Jones was involved in the South African side that won the world cup and I’d swear there was a south african involved in the Kiwi setup recently.

          Kirwan, Mallet and Eddie O’Sullivan have international experience with more than one international top 20 side.

          There are lots of coaches with international experience that could have applied but have chosen not to for whatever reason. Jake White, Eddie Jones and Graham Henry all rejected invitations to talk to England and be considered for the post. Of those, only Graham Henry expressed disinterest in coaching international rugby as head coach again. The question is, why is England only able to attract 3 coaches to the team?

          1. Well if you’re going down the road of assistant coaches being from other places, then every country in the World has at some point done that (even to the extent of Ford in France). England have already had foreign involvement at that level in the past I believe (though can’t dredge through my memory to dig up names).

            As for White and Jones, we don’t know the real reason behind White sticking Down Under, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he wanted too much and got told where to stick it! Jones I hope I never see in a coaching role with the RFU at any point.

            You have solid reasons for Mallett, which I accept as being good arguments, but for me, I just wouldn’t rock the boat at the moment.

  8. There should be no debate really, it has to be SL. Yes he lacks club and international experience but Woodward was only an assistant coach when he took over! Also the counter argument to the “what if we loose 6 out of 7” is that if the RFU appoint Mallet and that happens they will look far far more foolish than if it happens under SL! This team that HE has built has followed a perfect upward tragectory since that first game at Murrayfield but is still a team in development so I think 3 wins out of those 7 games would be a very decent result.

    He has not put a foot wrong since he took over and has restored credibility and pride back into English rugby, to not give him the job would undo all that, he has to get it!

    1. I don’t know. If you pick an inexperienced coach and spurn the opportunity to take on a world class coach, you look pretty stupid when you lose. If you pick a world class coach and lose, what else could the RFU have done?

      1. Picked the guy that had saved Eng from the brink of the abyss! If they pick Mallet when the players, pundits and public are calling for SL and then loose they would look ridiculous

        1. You see, my big issue is this concept were on the brink of an abyss and that the team had fallen apart. a year ago, it looked like Johnson had finally got the world in order aside from the centre pairing. winning the 6 nations was a big step forward, first time in 8 years. England then lost 1 game in the world cup – to the eventual runners up – and suddenly, he’s the worst coach we’ve ever seen and England is in trouble.

          I’m not saying Johnno was great, but I would say that a lot of the players also had his back like they have Lancaster’s now and I’m also sure players would learn to love Mallet because he’s a great character and well missed in Italy. Look at what Sergio said of him and his departure during the six nations.

          My other issue is the concept of the RFU going with what the pundits and media say is right, because pundits and the media are atrociously fickle. Seriously, would you like the RFU to do whatever Austin Healey says? It’s reactionary. England look bad in their first 3 games and everyone’s talking about how Mallet will improve England. They beat France and suddenly it’s “Give Lanny the job now”. They are their to give extreme views and respond to what’s happening now and quickly forget the past.

  9. I have many issues with Lancaster being selected. Aside from the scrummaging against Ireland, which was masterful, I’ve not seen a lot special this six nations from England. There have been meteoric rises for a few players, Owen Farrel and… well that’s about it.

    My point is less that Lancaster has done a bad job, but more that he’s not done anything that any half decent coach would have done at this stage. This concept of getting the right attitude from the players is a bit mythical to me. He has blooded a lot of new players and bringing in lots of new people always changes the feeling in the camp. I don’t think he’s had to make any hard decisions yet, but those he has made I’ve questioned thoroughly.
    At half back is my first set of doubts. Firstly, Charlie Hodgson selected in the first team. Older than Toby Flood, fewer caps and a bad history. I’ve been an advocate of Hodgson’s, he had a worse rep than he deserved, but his selection in the first team is bizarre. Sure, Flood was injured, but why bring Hodgson into the first team, not the EPS and bring him up as injury cover? Flood and Youngs a year ago was the half back pairing bringing England to life, scoring them tries, mixing the game up and threatening. So the attitude is to bring in young players and give them opportunities to get things going for England, Hodgson is a step back
    When Youngs didn’t play well with Hodgson, the country asked for Lee Dickson to play instead and Lancaster obliged and we saw stagnant rucks, no ideas and turnover ball. The obvious half back pairing is Flood and Youngs – experienced, well practiced together and threatening, with Farrel learning his trade and getting game time.

    Other issues I have – number 8. Waldrom is young enough to go to the next world cup and strongly argued, by many, to be the best 8 in the Premiership, with good super XIV experience and playing in a strong pack. He also offers a well oiled 8/9/10 axis with Flood and Youngs. Ben Morgan has played for Scarlets a bit and Phil Dowson has played well in the premiership. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan impressed me, but how do you leave out Waldrom altogether? Especially when Dowson had not had time on Saturday to recover from concussion.

    Matt Stevens. I shouldn’t need to say anything else really. Penalty machine in the loose (think his penalty in front of the posts against Wales) penalty machine in the scrum. Is there anything he can do? So many more props out there.

    I’ll cut it short, but England can pick Lancaster who is unproven in real competition as yet and hasn’t done anything incredible to my eye with England, or they can pick Mallet, a world class coach of South Africa, Italy and Stade Francais who is just as likely to develop a rapport with players and brings so much more experience. Ultimately, it’s down to interview, but Mallet’s CV implies someone who will make England great again. Lancaster’s CV implies that he gets along with the players well and has won some games against some weak teams.

    1. Lancaster is not perfect and is not the finished article. He has more experience than Johnson had (which wasn’t hard). As mentioned above if the RFU pick Mallet then I won’t complain. Lancaster will get picked up by another union and come back with more experience (if he comes back – Shaun Edwards!).

      However you’re being way too hard on him. He picked up the pieces of what was a shattered England camp with loads of players way past their sell by date.

      Hodgson was the only experienced fly half left for the first game – would Mallet haved chucked a new ten into the mix with all the new faces as it was. I don’t think so. And he played fairly well. He isn’t the long term answer but he was essential short term.

      I could go on about the rest of the points in the same vein but don’t have the time.

      I wouldn’t mind Mallet but think Lancaster has more upside.

      1. My points are thus:
        I don’t think it’s accurate to say England were a shattered team after the world cup, unless you read the papers too much. They won the six nations and lost one world cup game against the second placed 6 nations team and the world cup runners up. That’s not a bad record.

        I’m not saying Lancaster’s done anything bad – though some of his selections bewilder me – only that he’s not done anything amazing yet. Through lack of opportunity perhaps, but he’s only done what any sensible coach would have done under the circumstances. He’s had no hard decisions to make and no pressure. Mallet on the other hand was fairly successful with South Africa, pulled Italy up in the rankings and won silverware with Stade Francais. Mallet has impressed me, Lancaster has yet to do something to show me he will do more down the line.

        The Charlie Hodgson issue was odd and I can only assume he was spurred on by Andy Farrel. Hodgson is experienced yes, but he’s experienced in a different era of international rugby and he’s not exactly been covered in glory. My confusion comes by his selection over a fit an in form Flood, who I thought helped to change the game against Wales and bring England back into it. But it also comes on the nature of his selection. The obvious choice to me, if you’re bringing in new talent is to put Hodgson in the Saxons and call him up as injury cover. Then there’s a space for say a Freddie Burns to get a taste of international training camps, even if he doesn’t play.

        1. Flood in form? He had just come back from injury and played very little time for Leicester. Hodgson has experience and is on form, and has learnt to tackle. Flood still hasn’t shown enough form for Leicester to oust Farrell at the moment. Maybe he is more creative, but I think it is his defensive weakness that lets him down. If Flood had been playing England would have had a lot more missed tackles, and the players around him would have had to do more work. That’s where gaps start appearing in the defensive line, and more tries are leaked.

          1. Never suggested him ousting farrell, in fact, I was surprised at how well he played, that’s a fair battle for the ten shirt. Hodgson though simply isn’t and he isn’t one for the future so why select him? I thought Flood looked fantastic when he came on against Wales, mixing up the kick offs, cross fields, running lines, it’s as good a game as I’ve seen from him in a while and he got dropped for Hodgson, it struck me as very odd.

  10. Spot on xxxwookie

    I have serious issues with SL, like you said, he hasn’t done a bad job but he hasn’t done much in terms of Rugby. I can’t identify what Englands game plan is. I am proud that they are fightinng again and showing some verve, however, that verve will not beat the best teams.

    He played young hungry players and to get spirit out of them isn’t hard. The team has technical faults everywhere, and so do the selections. If you look at the problems the MJ team had, no 7, slow ruck ball, middfield that couldn’t pass, strong but not devestating pack, good back three that didn’t get enough ball, slow starters, ect ect, I don’t think much has changed.

    He has had zero pressure on him, if he lost then whatever, lets get Mallet in, if he won he was a hero, it’s a good place to be. I remember people saying after the WC that we needed fresh ideas, somebody from outside the RFU scene, outside England maybe. Taking the coach from the Saxons operation is hardly outside the scene.

    I still want fresh blood, I want a SH coach that can change Englands Rugby mentality, this coach needs the boardroom experience and weight of name to stand up to the RFU, who are idiots. If SL loses public opinion he will be bullied into stupid decisions.

    The options aren’t the best but I like Mallet he goes his own way and to hell with the consequences. So I vote Mallet.

    I also think a deeper interest should be taken in who will be the technical backroom coaches. Rowntree warants inclusion on the scrummaging this tournemnet. But Farral has not affected the backs, Saracans backs are awful as well, in attack. Wayne Smith is a must.

    The RFU will do what the public wants to save face, SL will get the job.

    1. I don’t believe Farrell was there as a backs or attack coach, but as a defensive and skills coach.

  11. As an Irish rugby fan I think he has done a great job, however there still seems to be some reluctance due to the FAil that was Martin Johnsons appointment. 1 solution could be an 18 month contract. Still time for international mercenary to take 2014 6 nations and prepare for WC 2015, if further improvement does not materialise under SL.

    1. the problem with that is that Mallet is available now, you can’t guarantee he will be in 18 months time. Sure, there may be someone else available then. What I’d actually like to see is Mallet take up the job and keep Lancaster on as a high level assistant, in fact I wouldnt mind betting that during his interview he makes that suggestion because it would be the sort of forward thinking, media pleasing, compromise making attitude that the RFU would want. Given his praise of Lancaster recently, I also suspect it would be to his liking.

      Then, if he doesn’t work out with England, Lanny is there and there with some international experience under the guidance of a real international coach to take over

  12. The major issue here is that even if the candidates vying for the position are as ambitious and potentially as visionary they are suffering because they cannot achieve any breakthrough in media terms without comparison to Lancaster now shining in the blinding light of British hype (x-factor culture…).

    We all criticize the media bandwagon after teams fail to live up to expectation but seem to scream our approval at the slightest sense resemblance of regime change. But what if just for once people collectively took stock of the candidates for the position and elect a body of coaches/performance directors who will combine with the most potential for a successful world cup campaign instead of seeking to isolate individuals.

    That in my mind would not mean sending out Lancaster alone (or with Rowntree in tow only) onto the international platform beyond this six nations. I like what he’s been saying but all rhetoric has a shelf life and it might require a level head like Mallet to create an environment of consistency. That said news of interesting young players such as May, Ford, Launchbury is very exciting and conveys Lancaster’s importance as somebody highlighting the wealth of homegrown talent.

  13. It’s still a gamble for the RFU, They are simply worried about making more mistakes and with the RWC 2015 in England its quite right that they cover all avenues. Mallet is proven at this level but you would also have to say that while Lancaster was not proven 8 weeks ago, he has indeed proven his credentials now, and done it in just 5 games while building a new squad. It’s quite an achievement and quite frankly i don’t think any other coach could have done it.

    That said it has been the RFU’s own fault in this process that has narrowed the candidate list to Mallet and Lancaster, with many other notable managers withdrawing due to the RFU being pedantic and interfering in coaching matters from the word go before they even hired a manager.

    Their decision to try and make a deal with Jake white and also with one of the NZ RWC winning backroom team(name?) was ill advised. It should be the manager who assembles his backroom team not the Union blazer brigade.

    Lancaster done this, with Farrell and Rowntree and it has been a resounding success. He got people around him who he trusts and who he has faith in. The RFU have no business what so ever trying to set this up and tell the manager who his back room staff should be.

    The fact is Lancaster has more understanding than the RFU of what it takes to create a good rugby team, but they are just a little bit hesitant to take a gamble on him.

    I don’t believe its a gamble. It seems clear enough to me that SL is the right man. Even Mallet has said that he could not offer any more to the team than has already been done. He has basically ruled himself out by saying that IMO.

    1. ‘It should be the manager who assembles his backroom team not the Union blazer brigade.’

      Couldn’t agree more – that’s why I don’t support a Mallet-Lancaster fudge imposed by the RFU. If Mallet is appointed he should be able to get in whoever he wants. If he goes for Lancaster, fine. If he doesn’t, that’s fine too.

  14. Have been very torn on this issue, I really don’t envy the people making the decision.

    Firstly, it was asked in an article on the blog recently why Ian Ritchie would go against such strong public opinion in favour of Lancaster. Well public opinion was heavily in favour of Martin Johnson and Kevin Keegan a few years back and look how that turned out. We don’t know what’s good for us and because we have no accountability we are the first to turn when it goes wrong. So public opinion should be completely disregarded. It won’t be because the RFU will cover its arse, but it should be.

    Beyond that, yes it’s true that we didn’t play a whole heap of rugby in this tournament and I am from the crowd who thinks England should never be ‘rebuilding’ with the resoucres we have. But the job of this tournament was to turn the tanker round and get it pointing in the right direction again and Lancaster has done that with aplomb. However the decision will (or should) not be based on this but on the vision he presents for the future. There is no doubt that he has been the right man in the right place at the right time for this championship but that does not necessarily make him the right man going forward.

    Having said that I can’t get too excited about Nick Mallet either. It is 14 years since he had his big run of success for South Africa since when he has a pretty average stint with Italy and a decentish run with Stade when they had money coming out of their earholes on his CV. He is very dictatorial in nature and I’m not sure he would enjoy having a popular lieutenant such as Lancaster beneath him. There is a tendency in many supports to appoint somebody as an immediate reaction to their predecessor (particularly clear in England football managers). Johnson was appointed with no experience so there is a move to grab the most experienced person they can find. But that doesn’t necessarily make him the right man.

    On balance, have been impressed with the way in which Lancaster conducts himself and he may well be worth investing in and gets my tentative vote. I just hope that those expressing their overwhelming support now don’t turn on him and those who appointed him if we get a rough run of results. But I suspect many will.

  15. I think we should be less concerned with their respective track records but what the vision is for the future. However if Mallett wants to seal the deal he should tell the panel he would like to retain SL in his set up. I think SL would take it. If SL wants to seal the deal he should tell the panel that he plans to bring in someone with experience into his set up, Wayne Smith who be ideal doing a similar role to Eddie Jones when he was with SA. I have a nasty feeling that there will be a fudge and that Eddie O’Sullivan will slime his way into the set up.

  16. John Kirwan was the only one of the outsiders prepared to take England on directly after the RWC. If Numpty-Pants Andrew remains where he is, Mallett or Kirwan will get very frustrated, as they will want total control. Is Lancaster a strong enough character not to kowtow to Andrew’s ego?

  17. I would like to see an “Lancaster and …” appointment and not just Lancaster.

    The main reason Lancaster has to stay, in my opinion, is we can not take the risk of losing what we have gained in terms of spirit, work ethic, etc i.e. the stuff all good teams are founded on. The RFU would just look so stupid if we regressed without him so I can’t believe they will want that risk.

    The reason Lancaster alone still makes me very nervous when I reflect on England’s most successful period under Woodward. Woodward was a pioneer and innovator, he brought in new ideas from other sports and outside of sport, he changed the game because England set new standards in strength and fitness through use of cutting edge science and technology. When I look at the Welsh now they seem to be the ones in the relentless pursuit of progress, the ones with the new ideas of how to play the game and the ones making the best use of science and technology in player preparation. England desperately need a visionary to compliment the graft.

    To be fair I have no evidence that Lancaster doesn’t have this, but no evidence he does either. But I’m not comfortable going with a team that doesn’t know what it takes to go from good to great, to move from followers to leaders.

    In fixing something that was broken he has done an awesome job:
    – Identified the root causes of our issues and treated causes not symptoms (Johnson spent all time talking about the symptom of a poor performance and never the root cause)
    – Kept everything simple and basic. The whole Leeds not Lisbon thing is exactly what we’ve needed.
    – Removed the risk of too many chiefs with a lean coaching team.
    – Never looked under stress or pressure and always kept his composure.
    – Picked on premiership form, but also ommitted anyone likely to be a negative influence in the camp.

    We can argue about a few selection decisions, but on balance all of the above has been done brilliantly.

    Let’s be under no illusion though, the 80-20 rule is so true. It is much harder to turn good into great than to just become good in the first place. We can’t be great again through basics alone and I see no reason to load all responsibility for becoming great on 1 developing coach.

    So I vote for “Lancaster and …..”

    I don’t mind if this is a Woodward post Olympics or a Mallett now as long as it is a combination that both men are happy with. One man to think, one man to implement.

    1. Personally I would love to see Woodward come back in to the fold. I think Woodward and Lancaster would be a great combination.

    2. Very good analysis Matt. Its trues what you say about the work ethic Lancaster has brought in i don’t think anybody doubts that.

      But i think the innovator to take the team that step on is Wayne smith. He has said hes committed to working for Waikato this season but has expressed an interest. He didn’t want the head job but if he were given the same role as he had under Henry that would surely be perfect right?

      Only possible problem would be if he clashes with Farrell as he is the backs coach… and that was the role Smith had under Henry. I’m not sure i particularly rate Farrell, Saracens can’t really put a backs move together and neither could England. But did Farrell have much influence on the defense? because that deserves praise pretty hard to know from our perspective. Hopefully there would be room for both but that needs to be Lancaster’s decision.

      1. Farrell has already said he won’t be involved and is concentrating on Saracens so that problem goes away.

  18. Interesting debate, and many excellent comments on here. I agree mostly with the lack of evidence that England progressed that much in this 6N. We could’ve lost to Scotland, should’ve lost to Italy and lost to Wales. The French hardly turned up, and aside from an outstanding forwards display against Ireland, we scored 2 attacking open-play tries all championship. England were also at the wrong end of most of the stats for the competition.

    I know this isn’t helpful, but I’m not inspired by either option – Lancaster or Mallet. Lancaster has done a good job, but with no pressure. He seems too nice to me to stand up to the RFU and command respect when times are tough, and reminds me of a teacher-coach who everyone loves but will never sacrifice everything in the name of victory.

    Mallet’s day has been and gone in my opinion. Yes, he has a vast amount of experience, but is his finger on the pulse of modern-day rugby? Being out of the game for even a couple of years leaves a lot of change.

    It speaks volumes that hardly anyone has applied for the job. Personally, I think Dean Ryan would be an excellent candidate. His analysis on Sky is absolutely first rate and he created an outstanding Gloucester team (that admittedly fell at the final hurdle many times, but lacked class in key positions). Backing him up I’d have Shaun Edwards, a home-grown talent. How the RFU have let him slip through the net twice is unbelievable.

    Whoever gets the job, I hope that it isn’t yet another false dawn. The interest and excitement is palpable among those commenting here, we just need that to be reflected in results from here on.

  19. The trouble with Ryan, even though his analysis of the modern game is first rate, his coaching style will be detrimental to the squad atmosphere built by SL. He ran his Gloucester side on fear and adrenaline.
    Famously, Thierry Lacroix was plum centre for a kick able penalty in a final some time ago, the ref was suggesting that app at the posts was in order, and Lacroix had to tell him to wait before he had heard from DR in the stands what to do with the penalty.
    I’ll be jumping for joy if SL, GR and AF work with John Kirwan.

  20. I have to say that my main reason for liking Lancaster is what he has done to team spirit, in 16 weeks he has done a hell of a lot to inspire players in being proud of playing for their country again. I know it’s been said elsewhere hundreds of times, but it is such an important base. The fact that we won four of the five is very nice and all but right now we should be getting right back to basic discipline and that is what has been happening.

    The most important thing to remember about this whole thing is that it has been a trio all the way through – SL, Rowntree and Farrell. If the RFU can keep the three of them together I think it could be extremely positive.

  21. I’m a little astounded at the general consensus that Mallett is some sort of coaching genius. When he left Stade Francais, granted, they had won 2 French titles in a row.

    Since then, it has been a massive downward spiral. Now Italy are not, in the foreseeable future, going to win trophies, and so it is unfair to say he won nothing with them, but:

    Berbizier and Kirwan, his two immediate predecessors in the role, both had better winning records than Mallett with arguably similar strength squads and against simlar strength opposition.

    His tactical astuteness at times blundered, culminating obviously in the Bergamasco at 9 at Twickenham fiasco.

    Is this really a World Cup winning coach that we should be casting aside Lancaster for?

    1. Bl00dy hell people bang on about bergamasco. It was a gamble that went wrong when he was facing an injury crisis. He didnt repeat it. Unlike Lancaster repeatedly bringing on Stevens who is a complete liability.

    2. This is what I mean about making hard decisions. Lancaster hasn’t been stuck in a position where he’s had to make a tough decision. Yes, Bergamasco at 9 was a farce, it was a risk. Coaches need to make tough decisions when their backs are against the wall. Lancaster has been in a position thus far where any decision he makes would be an issue with selecting youngsters and trying things out. He is win win and can’t do anything wrong because anything wrong is part of him learning.

      As for Mallet’s record with Italy – it’s not always about the number of wins, but the quality. He pulled Italy up in the world rankings. He got their first ever six nations win over France and pushed England and Ireland closer than before as well as an away draw to Wales and an away win over Scotland. It’s not always about percentages. Lancaster’s record is having an England Saxons side who win the Churchill cup (good win over Canada that!) and destroying Leeds.

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