7:00am Sunday 8th April 2012
By John Payne
Harlequins and England legend Will Carling reckons Stuart Lancaster should have been kept waiting before being handed the full-time position as England rugby coach.
But the Rugby Football Union have taken the opposite tack in handing Lancaster the job, following England’s second-place finish in the Six Nations Championship, and pledging to back him through thick and thin.
The comments made by Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the RFU, certainly demonstrate a change in policy at Twickenham after three successors to Sir Clive Woodward all saw their tenures prematurely ended.
Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton and Martin Johnson left for differing reasons, but none of them (or World Cup winner Woodward) appeared to enjoy the close relationship with bosses Ritchie is promising Lancaster.
“We have to look long-term. You cannot have knee-jerk reactions because there will be failures and disappointment along the way... that is why we said his contract was through to 2016 – past the next World Cup. We recognise we will lose games along the way.”
Defeats could come sooner rather than later with a three-Test summer tour of South Africa followed by autumn matches against the Springboks, New Zealand and Australia.
Despite the progress made under the captaincy of Chris Robshaw, we can’t expect too much too soon from such a young side and sporting history is littered with plans that have been discarded all too early because of a few results.
If Ritchie is true to his word, his support will not merely be a vote of confidence but practical help in taking some of the management burden away from the former England Saxons coach.
Whatever happens, this feels like a brave new era, unlike the England football manager’s fiasco that has left Stuart Pearce in temporary charge of the national side as well as England U21s and the Olympics side.
Pearce has been left in a no-win position where he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t – try to make some sensible preparations ahead of 2012 and the former left-back stands accused of getting ahead of himself.
I can’t help feeling that the stand-off is partly because the FA bigwigs are rather less keen on appointing Spurs manager Harry Redknapp than the public and don’t want a backlash if they select the more dependable, but less charismatic, Roy Hodgson.
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