England plan ahead with Farrell part of new coaching trio

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Highly-rated Saracen joins forces with Lancaster and Rowntree for the Six Nations

The Rugby Football Union has not exactly been renowned for thinking outside the box in recent years – or, indeed, for thinking at all – but there is a brave new world to be explored following the seismic upheavals of the last few weeks and yesterday the men now in charge at Twickenham made an encouraging start by naming Andy Farrell as part of England's interim back-room team for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship. Farrell is not the most experienced coach in the world but he may one day prove to be among the best. The future starts here.

One of the true greats of British rugby league, Farrell was some way short of great over the course of a brief and frustrating playing career in the 15-man game. Yet since he turned his hand to coaching at Saracens, the reigning English champions, he has barely put a foot wrong. This was recognised yesterday when the governing body named him alongside the Twickenham insider Stuart Lancaster and the current England scrum technician Graham Rowntree in a three-man caretaker unit charged with seeing the national team through the next few difficult weeks.

At first, the RFU wanted Farrell on a part-time basis, thinking that this would allow him to continue working at club level, much as the highly regarded defence coach Shaun Edwards – another league man – once split his time between Wales and Wasps. However, Saracens took the view that if Farrell was going to involve himself with England, he should do it body and soul. As a result, he will devote himself exclusively to red-rose affairs once the Six Nations squad gathers next month.

Lancaster was an obvious choice to head up the new team: the former Leeds coach has been at the heart of Twickenham's elite department for some years, working closely with the second-string Saxons – some regular members of which, including the Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw, are certain to be named in the Six Nations squad early next month – and spending large amounts of time with the brighter elements in the age-group programme. Rowntree, meanwhile, won plaudits for his efforts at the recent World Cup in New Zealand, which put him in a very small minority indeed.

How many of the caretakers will still be in place come the summer is anyone's guess: a new full-time coaching panel is scheduled to be appointed ahead of the three-Test tour of South Africa in June, and some very senior southern hemisphere figures, including the former Springbok boss Nick Mallett and the World Cup-winning New Zealand tactician Wayne Smith, are interested in taking up the Twickenham challenge. But the interim group can strike a resounding blow for continuity by retaining the Six Nations title – a mighty big ask, admittedly, but not quite an impossible one.

Encouragingly, Lancaster talked a good deal about restoring a positive culture to an England operation that collapsed under the weight of its own arrogance and indiscipline at the global gathering in All Black country. He spoke of the importance of "pride in the shirt and the rose" and made it abundantly clear that the players in his charge would be expected to do the right things. "I was brought up on a small farm in Cumbria where it was all about graft," he said, adding: "It was an unfortunate World Cup and we will learn the necessary lessons. We want players who recognise it and buy into it. We want the ethics to be right. If people don't tick the character box they won't be picked."

Rowntree, who described the last few weeks as among the most testing of his life, is the last man standing of those who worked under Martin Johnson's managership in New Zealand. Johnson resigned last month, having failed to make anything approaching proper sense of the job despite being granted a three and a half year run at it by an acquiescent management board dominated by the now discredited chairman Martyn Thomas. Brian Smith, the attack coach, also resigned after the tournament, in which England were knocked out at the quarter-final stage. Thoroughly disenchanted, he plans to return to his native Australia with all due speed.

Two other senior members of that coaching panel, the forwards strategist John Wells and the defence specialist Mike Ford, remain on the RFU payroll, but their work with the senior team is at an end. Ford, especially, was widely tipped to stay on until the end of the Six Nations, but his absence from the list announced yesterday suggests he is past tense as far as the governing body is concerned. Of the kicking coach Dave Alred, part of the World Cup-winning staff in 2003, there was no sign either. Closely linked with Jonny Wilkinson, whose chances of being included in the new red-rose squad are thought to be non-existent, it seems he too has had his day.

The new trio must name a 32-strong Six Nations squad at the start of next month and intend to come up with something fresh and exciting. "You can't strip away all the experience, but there will be an emphasis on youth," Lancaster said. Farrell's own son Owen, a big hit as a goal-kicking midfielder at Saracens, is a contender. Among others well known to Lancaster, the Harlequins prop Joe Marler has a strong claim, as does the Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples.

Three wise men: England's interim coaching team

Stuart Lancaster

One of the most highly qualified coaches in the country, the Cumbrian may have spent recent seasons flying below the England radar – his profile is approximately a zillionth of that enjoyed by Martin Johnson, say – but he has not been short of success and is not without ambition either. His second-string Saxons side are on a long winning streak and he can also claim credit for a raft of age-group successes. When the Rugby Football Union was looking for a performance director earlier in the year, he declared an interest despite a deafening clamour for the return of Sir Clive Woodward.

Graham Rowntree

It took some doing to emerge from the rubble of England's World Cup campaign in one piece, but the former Leicester prop managed it – a fact that spoke volumes for his ability to make a positive contribution behind the scenes, despite the all-pervading darkness. Rowntree was an outstanding forward whose return to prominence after hitting a very low point after the Lions tour of South Africa in 1997 marked him out as an unusually resourceful character. Few players have a bad word to say about him. A top communicator, his technical work is improving almost by the day.

Andy Farrell

The rugby league legend first switched codes with a grand plan to achieve similar status in union, but he was already in his thirties and had too little time to complete the transition – especially as injury problems kicked in the moment he arrived at Saracens in 2005. There have been no such issues with his coaching, however. Farrell has already tasted success as part of the inspirational back-room team who drove Sarries to a first Premiership final in 2010 and to a first title 12 months later. A brilliant rugby mind, he has had the look of a future England coach about him for two years now.

Chris Hewett

News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness