The appointment of Stuart Lancaster as England’s interim Head Coach is already looking to be a shrewd move by the RFU, writes Dan Grose.
Lancaster was the sensible, solid choice for the upcoming RBS Six Nations, and will hopefully provide much needed stability leading up to and including the tournament.
An impressive record as England Saxons coach and his position as Head of Elite Player development saw him beat off competition from more glamourous suitors, and an ailing England side will no doubt look forward to a change in approach.
Friday’s comments regarding player selection also signal a welcome change in the way the side is constructed. Lancaster’s declaration that “the door is not shut on anyone” is a massive step in the right direction, and will serve to put at ease several fears currently floating around the England camp.
For the senior players, there is hope that recent World Cup revelations haven’t ruined their future chances. Whilst the leaked documents may have done serious damage to the team’s image, it is encouraging to hear Lancaster views the matter as closed. As he rightly observed, experience is key in any team, and Mike Tindall in particular will be relieved that, after a difficult few months, his slate will be clean when the first team is picked.
And with the under – 20 Aviva Premiership programme earmarked as a potential source of players, the younger generation also has cause for optimism. Such a comment is indicative of a coach planning to pick on ability and form alone, and with so many exciting prospects in contention already this is an encouraging sign. The likes of Henry Trinder, Charlie Sharples and Owen Farrell are looking to be future England stars, and the thought of others in the same ilk given the same chance is exciting to say the least.
There is also the prospect of forgotten names returning to the fold. Danny Cipriani has been handed a lifeline after three years in the international wilderness, the new coach expressing his admiration for the precocious fly half. After his well documented past many will see this as a forgiving move, yet anyone in the form Cipriani has enjoyed most recently should be in contention for their country, history or not.
Such a pragmatic outlook is exactly what England need, and will hopefully kick start their revival after a tough few months. Lancaster’s pledge to pick those worthy is the right call for a group of players who are looking for, more than anything, a boost in morale.
Praise must also go to the RFU, a less uttered sentence in modern times, for shunning more billboard-worthy names in favour of logic. Whilst some of their recent decisions have been far from popular, this certainly goes some way to making amends.
Stuart Lancaster will have a tough time repairing the image of English rugby, there is no doubt about that. But his attitude in such a short time indicates he is more than capable of doing so, and crucially more than content in doing it his own way.