Mallett set for Eng interview
London - Both Stuart Lancaster and Nick Mallett are set to be interviewed for the post of England head coach on Thursday as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) closes in on a permanent successor to Martin Johnson.
Former South Africa and Italy coach Mallett, vastly more experienced than Lancaster, was first sounded out about the possibility of succeeding Johnson, England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain, in December following the former lock's resignation but said he was unavailable then for family reasons.
That opened the door for Lancaster, previously coach of England's reserve Saxons, to take caretaker charge of the Test team for the Six Nations and he responded by guiding a fledgling side to four wins out of five and a runners-up spot behind Grand Slam champions Wales.
In the process the Englishman did much to repair the image of a team tarnished by off-field excesses at last year's World Cup in New Zealand, where England failed to reach their minimum goal of a semi-final spot.
Mallett, after England wrapped up their Six Nations with a convincing 30-9 win over Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday, all but conceded the job to Lancaster, telling South African television: "You can't see the RFU wanting to change a coach when you look at the team and how happy they are."
But recently-installed RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has repeatedly stressed the search for a new England head coach is a "comparative process".
And such has been the extent of the behind-the-scenes infighting at Twickenham during the past year that it is by no means certain Ritchie's nomination for the post will be accepted without question by the RFU board.
This appointment is particularly sensitive as the next World Cup, in 2015, is in England and the RFU is desperate to go into the tournament with a team capable of winning rugby union's showpiece event for a second time.
Lancaster, having seen the talent coming through the English system, is convinced England can enjoy global glory in four years' time.
"I absolutely believe we can win the 2015 World Cup," he said. "I now have to convince the interview panel I am the right person for the job."
Lancaster would, ideally, like England to arrive at the 2015 World Cup with a youthful but experienced side and has outlined how such a side might start its next tilt for the Webb Ellis Trophy with a collective tally of some 663 caps.
"If we look at previous winners of the World Cup, Australia in 1999 had a total of 622 caps in their starting XV, England had 638 in 2003, South Africa had 668 (in 2007) and New Zealand had 709 last year," Lancaster said.
Against Wales in the Six Nations, England fielded a side with just 182 caps and pushed them close before beating France and Ireland.
Lancaster, set to want assistant coaches Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell to remain if he is appointed, is the first England coach to oversee three away wins in a single Six Nations - a feat not managed even by World Cup-winning boss Clive Woodward - after victories in Edinburgh, Rome and Paris.
"We feel we made progress," Lancaster said. "I think performances have shown that," the former Leeds coach added.
"To go away to France and win, to put 30 points on Ireland at home, to win away in Scotland and Italy and to nearly get across the line against Wales, given the fact we met eight weeks ago, we must have got something right.
"How it unfolds from now I can't control. I'd like to think, irrespective of whether it is me or anyone else, we are in a good place."