Stuart Lancaster rejects RFU plan for bigger England coaching team

EXCLUSIVE: Stuart's stand: Lancaster rejects RFU plan for bigger coaching team

By
Chris Foy

PUBLISHED:

22:30 GMT, 26 March 2012

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 26 March 2012

Stuart Lancaster is understood to be ‘very confident’ that he will be appointed England’s long-term head coach this week, so much so that he has rejected RFU pressure to expand his preferred management team.

The union’s new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, was due to meet his four-man advisory panel on Monday for one final meeting before settling on a recommendation to present to the Twickenham board.

Despite suggestions the shortlist for the job features four names, Lancaster and South African Nick Mallett remain the prime contenders, with a decision expected to be announced before the weekend.

This will do just fine: Stuart Lancaster (centre) is keen to keep his coaching team the same with Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell

This will do just fine: Stuart Lancaster (centre) is keen to keep his coaching team the same with Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell

While each of the front-runners presented a compelling case in interviews last Thursday, Lancaster is thought to be highly optimistic he did enough in his interim stint during the Six Nations to claim the post on a permanent basis.

Sportsmail has learned that the 42-year-old former Leeds coach insisted to the interview panel that his vision for the future was founded on the continuation of the arrangements put in place for the championship — with a streamlined management including Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell as his assistants.

Making his case: Lancaster has outlined his plans to the RFU

Making his case: Lancaster has outlined his plans to the RFU

In order to retain Farrell, Lancaster would have to convince the RFU to buy out his contract at Saracens.

However, strong hints from Ritchie and his advisers that the union would be happier with an increase in the coaching resources — most likely to include an experienced ‘big hitter’ such as Wayne Smith from New Zealand — were apparently rebuffed by Lancaster, who indicated he would be prepared to review the situation later.

The former schoolteacher from Cumbria is confident he will win the vote on a wave of public backing after guiding England to four wins in the Six Nations.

Contender: Nick Mallett

Front runner: Stuart Lancaster

Head to head: Former Italy coach Nick Mallett and Lancaster and in the running for the England top job

However, he is understood to have considered the likely director of rugby vacancy at Bath as an enticing Plan B — with the hope Rowntree will join him — should Mallett or someone else be appointed.

Lancaster has received support from a member of Martin Johnson’s England management team, attack coach Brian Smith, who is back at London Irish as director of rugby.

Three wise men: Lancaster, Rowntree and Farrell oversaw a successful Six Nations campaign

Three wise men: Lancaster, Rowntree and Farrell oversaw a successful Six Nations campaign

The Australian said: ‘Stuart’s in a good position. He knew all those young players, he’s been responsible for the last four or five years for developing them. He’s feeling that love you feel when you’re in that honeymoon phase. I wish him every success.

‘What will they (RFU) do I don’t know, but I can see them leaving Stuart and the two coaches who are there with him and bringing someone like Sir Clive Woodward in over the top to work with them.

Decision maker: New RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie will make his recommendation to the board

Decision maker: New RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie will make his recommendation to the board

‘Clive has won a World Cup. There’s only a few in this country who really know how to do it. You would think the new CEO would see him as a resource.’

Smith described the World Cup in New Zealand and the aftermath — complete with leaked reports which contained criticism of his own contribution — as a ‘bloody nightmare’.

In a swipe at the RFU, he said: ‘The World Cup was unpleasant, it was grubby, but the organisation involved is the organisation that’s been involved in a lot of messy, grubby things in recent times. One or two individuals conducted themselves appallingly.’

Part of the team: Lancaster has proved to be a popular choice among the England squad

Part of the team: Lancaster has proved to be a popular choice among the England squad

Wales could see two more key figures from their Grand Slam success lured across the Channel to join wealthy French clubs.

RBS Six Nations Player of the Championship Dan Lydiate is reportedly being lined up by Toulouse, who sense they could secure the Dragons flanker this summer such is the scale of the economy drive among the Welsh regions.

Giant Blues wing Alex Cuthbert is said to have interested Northampton but is now on the radar of Toulon, Jonny Wilkinson’s club on the Cote d’Azur who are stockpiling Test players at a startling rate.

Cuthbert’s Blues team-mate Gethin Jenkins has already agreed to join Toulon at the end of this season, while Mike Phillips, Lee Byrne and James Hook are established in France.