Cohen breaks ranks with the widespread chorus of welcome


Stuart Lancaster's appointment as England head coach was greeted with near-unanimous acclaim, though World Cup winner Ben Cohen was a notable dissenter.

Lancaster's most successful predecessor, the 2003 World Cup winner Sir Clive Woodward, said: "I would like to extend my congratulations to Stuart Lancaster. The Six Nations demonstrated great progress and I wish Stuart and his team continued success. I am sure Stuart... will enjoy England supporters' full backing going forward towards the World Cup in 2015 on home soil."

Damian Hopley, chairman of the International Rugby Players' Association, said: "We have all been thoroughly impressed by his professional approach, vision and dedication to achieving the best for English rugby from the day he was appointed interim head coach. Stuart is tremendously popular with the players and quickly earned their respect and trust through his honesty, humility and strong work ethic."

Chris Robshaw, the Harlequins flanker whom Lancaster appointed as captain for the Six Nations, echoed such views; Mark McCafferty, chief executive of Premiership Rugby, said Lancaster "understands the mechanics of the professional game in England".

Players, former players, pundits and former players who are now pundits also took to Twitter. Danny Cipriani, the capped fly-half who will return from the Super 15 to join Sale next season, tweeted: "Congratulations to Stuart Lancaster. His passion is 2nd to none." The former England captain Will Carling was more cautious, tweeting: "Great job during 6 Nations no doubt. Can he takes [sic] us to No 1 in the World though, that is the challenge??"

As for Cohen's view: "I don't think he is the right man... Nick Mallett has got credentials coming out of his ears... and Wayne Smith. They are people who know how to react in tough times.

"Let's be frank, you look at the Six Nations as a honeymoon period and there are testing times to come."

Clark is banned until November

The Northampton forward Calum Clark has been banned for 32 weeks by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing.

The flanker, an England elite squad member, was suspended until 1 November at an RFU hearing at a Heathrow Airport hotel last night. The ban runs from 22 March. Clark was cited after an incident during the LV Cup final defeat by Leicester 11 days ago. He was suspended indefinitely by his club.

Clark was reported for an act contrary to good sportsmanship, allegedly hyperextending the Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' right arm. Hawkins suffered a broken elbow and required surgery.

In a statement the RFU said: "Calum Clark of Northampton Saints was this evening suspended for 32 weeks for an act contrary to good sportsmanship – Law 10(4) (M)." Clark has the right to appeal.