Lancaster wins RFU chief's vote to beat Mallett to permanent England job
21:30 GMT, 28 March 2012
Stuart Lancaster is on the verge of being appointed England head coach after RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie was understood to have put forward his name to the union board for final approval.
The 42-year-old Cumbrian has had an anxious wait to learn his fate since having a formal interview for the post on Thursday last week, on the same day as his main rival, South African Nick Mallett.
On Monday, Ritchie and his four advisers — Sir Ian McGeechan, Rob Andrew, Conor O’Shea and Richard Hill — met for one final discussion before settling on their recommendation.
Altogether now: Stuart Lancaster (second right) looks set for the job
Sportsmail has learned that there was
due to be a gathering of the RFU board on Wednesday night and it is
thought that Ritchie had decided to propose that Lancaster is appointed
as the long-term successor to Martin Johnson. Subject to formal
acceptance at the meeting, an announcement is likely to be made either
on Thursday or Friday.
Confirmation of his appointment would represent a startling coup for Lancaster, who was named as the interim head coach for the Six Nations in December, in the aftermath of Johnson’s resignation following the World Cup debacle.
The ex-schoolteacher has presided over a fundamental overhaul of the England set-up which culminated in a heartening second-place finish in the championship, behind Grand Slam winners Wales.
Fresh blood: Owen Farrell (right) has been one of Lancaster's success stories
Far from being content to conduct a holding operation, Lancaster set about a clean-up operation to repair the damage done to the game’s image by the controversies out in New Zealand last year.
Having freshened up the squad by removing veterans such as Nick Easter and Mark Cueto, and bringing in a raft of rookies headed by the goal-kicking Saracens tyro, Owen Farrell, the former Leeds coach made a strong disciplinary stand by banishing Danny Care and Delon Armitage following off-field incidents.
With the stated aim of re-connecting
the England team with the rugby public and restoring ‘pride in the
shirt’, Lancaster brought in various guest speakers during a pre-Six
Nations training camp, which was held in Leeds to take the players away
from the comfort zone of their luxury base in Surrey. He maintained the
cultural shift by asking his squad to coach youngsters and engage more
openly and readily with sponsors and media.
Not this time: Nick Mallett was overlooked for the England
Yet, he would not be on the brink of
taking charge of the national team on a long-term basis if he had not
engineered on-field success too. On Lancaster’s watch, England started
the championship with tense wins away from home against Scotland and
They did not show much by way of attacking craft in difficult
conditions at Murrayfield and in Rome, but they showed ample character.
Gradually, in the narrow defeat against Wales followed by stunning
victories in Paris and against Ireland at Twickenham, Lancaster’s
England displayed a variety of methods for winning Tests.
Of course, a fair share of credit for
the strides made by the team rightly went to the assistant coaches,
Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell.
Team: Lancaster hopes to work with Graham Rowntree (left) and Andy Farrell
Rowntree, who had expanded his remit
by taking overall charge of the forwards, is thought to be on an
open-ended contract with the RFU and is keen to maintain his involvement
with England. In Farrell’s case, he has gone back to his day-job as
head coach of Saracens.
The Aviva Premiership champions have him on a
contract for at least two more years and are determined to keep hold of
him, but Lancaster is equally determined to keep Farrell in the national
set-up, now he has seen him thriving in that environment. It would seem
certain that the RFU will have to pay the club significant compensation
if they are to secure his release.