Leinster role an unexpected, intriguing fit for Lancaster

Date published: September 6 2016

Stuart Lancaster is the last of England’s axed coaching contingent to land himself a new role, but few can deny that in the interim he has kept himself incredibly busy searching for his next step in professional sport.

That role has now come at Leinster with Lancaster’s role as a senior coach, announced on Monday less than two weeks shy of a year since the 2015 Rugby World Cup began.

He has popped up everywhere since his self-imposed withdrawal after England’s exit and the RFU’s decision to move on.

Leinster’s press release confirming his appointment finely summed up his recent travels across not just continents but sports too; “short-term roles with the Atlanta Falcons, with British Cycling’s world-class performance programme, with the English FA and most recently with Counties Manukau in the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand.”

Lancaster’s appetite for learning then certainly hasn’t been dulled by his personal turmoil. The coach who centred his own philosophy around 49ers head coach Bill Walsh’s ‘The Score Takes Care of Itself’ spent three days with the Falcons passing on his tackling expertise, before helping out with the defence of Counties Manukau as recently as three weeks ago.

Not anyone can walk through the doors of British Cycling having been asked to help assess the culture within the sport, prior to their gold medal haul at the Rio Olympics, or to help the Football Association in the search for a new England boss.

England’s World Cup was a disaster, no question, but Lancaster is still clearly regarded highly as a coach and also for his work in getting England’s culture back on track after the 2011 tournament.

Now at Leinster he appears almost bullishly set on reminding those that questioned his coaching abilities of what he can do.

“I’ve coached just about every part of the game. I had a teaching career until I was 30 but I’ve been coaching now for 16 years,” he told reporters.

“I think there’s a perception in England that I probably didn’t do any coaching. Andy Farrell clearly led on the defence when I was with England, but I was coaching defence not less than three weeks ago in New Zealand. At Counties Manukau, my main remit was to coach defence.

“I’ve got my own philosophy. Clearly, it’s been influenced by people I’ve worked under as defence coaches. I watched Mike Ford when he was the England defence coach, Andy Farrell latterly, I worked with Paul Gustard in Argentina when he came with me.

“I think I understand a lot about defence, but equally I’ve got a reasonably broad range and hopefully I can influence some of the attacking stuff as well and also reach down to some of the academy work.

“I’ve come from a development background, my role in England was not just head coach but also head of elite player development and I’d like to think I can offer Leinster something in that regard as well.”

Lancaster’s hopes of working in Super Rugby are now on hold, at least until the end of the season when his deal with Leinster expires. However he is now back in the shop window.

Few would have guessed that chance to prove his worth again would come with the three-time European champions in Ireland. It’s a fascinating appointment, with potentially big benefits for both parties.

by Ben Coles