Rugby

Lancaster back in black after turbulent England ride

2018-05-13 08:55
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

London - Stuart Lancaster was all smiles after Leinster secured their fourth European Cup on Saturday, quite a turnaround from the grim-faced shell-shocked coach who failed to get 2015 Rugby World Cup hosts England past the pool stage three years ago.

The 48-year-old Englishman has, like Andy Farrell, one of his assistant coaches from 2015, found the road to redemption lay in Ireland.

Indeed some suggest the duo may be reunited after the 2019 World Cup at national level again - though this time with Ireland.

Head coach Joe Schmidt is due to stand down after a hugely successful spell with Farrell, presently Irish defence coach, slated for promotion to the top job or else Lancaster to come in and share the duties.

However, Lancaster dismisses talk of what may lie ahead and does not see his success as senior coach with Leinster as being a case of having proved himself to the many doubters.

"I don't see I'm trying to prove anything to anyone," he told The Times.

"All I'm trying to do is do a good job for Leinster, because they gave me the opportunity and it was a difficult situation to be in, as a coach who had lost his job.

"It's more about repaying Leinster than vindication."

Lancaster, who saw nothing come of being linked to jobs at Super Rugby franchise Queensland Reds and French giants Toulon in the wake of the World Cup debacle, admits the sense of failure had been exacerbated by the lack of a job.

"It was really eating away at me," said Lancaster, who remained dignified despite the stinging criticism that was aimed at him at the end of his England reign.

"It is very difficult when you are out of work, waiting, hoping you will get an opportunity.

"Not having a team to coach was really eating away at me, not being able to put anything right and just having to sit there thinking about it."

However, Lancaster, a school teacher by profession like Schmidt and Eddie Jones, his successor as England head coach, first found succour with his family.

"It's tough, particularly for my parents, when criticism is coming your way on the back of not doing very well," said the father of two.

"And it wasn't just family, it was friends too, my mum and dad, brothers and sister but also the close-knit friends that had grown up with me."

But it was a text message from an unlikely source that provided Lancaster with the spark he required to seal his move to Leinster.

A vacancy at the Irish province opened up in September 2016 when Kurt McQuilkin, the defence coach, returned to New Zealand and iconic fly-half Johnny Sexton asked Lancaster if he was interested.

"It was only a two-line text message," Lancaster told The Irish Independent.

"But it meant a lot. We'd never met, but to have someone I obviously respected so much as a player and a person do that was definitely a big factor in me coming."

Sexton said someone with the qualities of the former England boss was badly needed after a difficult campaign which had seen them finish bottom of their European Cup pool.

"Leo (Cullen the team's head coach) had been talking to him and I had spoken to a few of the English boys, spoke to the Farrells about him really," Sexton told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

"They spoke very highly of him and it was something we needed at the time, someone to come in and help and he has been brilliant since he has come in."

Read more on:    leinster  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby
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