By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
STUART LANCASTER has revealed his plan for the future now he has been given the England head coach role on a permanent basis.
Lancaster, who guided England to second place in the recent Six Nations having won four matches out of five, has a three-step plan for the national squad now he has been given the reins until January 2016.
“There are three things I’d like to bring to the team,” said Lancaster on the day of his appointment. “The first is pride in wearing the shirt and a connection that people and players resonate with.
“The second is a vision for the future and a vision to win the 2015 World Cup. The third is to create an environment where the players play without fear. I want them to have the opportunity to express themselves on the world stage.
“The players are committed to that. We had a fantastic Six Nations and achieved a huge amount – and there is still a huge amount to do. The players are committed to that journey and are excited about that journey.”
Lancaster is keen to deflect attention and praise away from himself, pointing instead to the players, but reconnecting with England’s supporters is a key goal for him in the build-up to the home World Cup in three years. A lot of fans lost faith during the last World Cup and the fallout from it, but a rejuvenated atmosphere at Twickenham for the Wales and Ireland games suggests that Lancaster and his team are heading in the right direction.
“Ultimately it’s not about me, it’s about the team and the connection between the team and the English public,” says Lancaster. “There are 3,000 clubs and schools that play rugby, 82,000 people watching us at Twickenham, 10m people watching the Ireland game and there are 51m people in England. England is a country that gets behind its team – no nation in the world does that better than England. We want those 51m people to all feel part of the team.”
Some commentators have suggested that Lancaster is too inexperienced to take on such a senior role in Test rugby, but RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie was quick to insist that England have found the best man for the job.
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“I don’t see it as a gamble,” said Ritchie. “Stuart was given this job on merit. He was up against strong competition and we had a number of interested candidates – that was why we went through such an extensive process. He ticks all the boxes that we need and he’s the best coach for the senior England XV.”
Lancaster’s next challenge is to appoint his support staff. Graham Rowntree, already employed by the RFU, is likely to remain as forwards coach, but it will be more tricky to secure Andy Farrell from Saracens. No decisions have yet been made, but Lancaster will want his back-room team in place in time for the June tour to South Africa, where they play three Tests against the Springboks and two midweek games.