Lancaster: There can be no mental mistakes this time


Stuart Lancaster has spent the last few weeks defending his right to privacy when it comes to English rugby's most urgent affairs of state, but victory over the French in Paris tomorrow will amount to a public demand to be taken very seriously indeed as a candidate to lead the national team into the home World Cup in 2015.

The surprise withdrawal of Jake White, who won the Webb Ellis Cup with his native South Africa five years ago, as a contender for the position leaves the caretaker coach in a strong position. That position could be a whole lot stronger by tomorrow evening.

Much depends on his team's ability to withstand the anticipated backlash from Les Bleus, who blew their chances of a fourth Six Nations Grand Slam in 11 years by failing to beat Ireland on home soil last weekend. Most specifically, Lancaster's chances are linked to the performance of the red-rose front row against the strongest scrum in Europe. If Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole wilt at close quarters tomorrow – and the latter two have first-hand experience of such humiliation, having been substituted embarrassingly early the last time England played at Stade de France – the chances of the coach ending the competition in credit will be no better than 50-50.

"The scrum is such a big part of French rugby mentality," the coach said yesterday before heading across the water. "We talked amongst ourselves this morning about how they use the scrum to impose their will on a contest. All 15 players on the field must be aware of it, not just the three in the front row. We didn't go as well at the set piece as we would have liked in out last game against Wales. There can be no mental slip-ups this time."

As he has done since the Rugby Football Union's formal coach recruitment process began in earnest last month, Lancaster refused to discuss the issue in any detail when pressed on the potential consequences of White's decision to honour a four-year contract in Australian provincial rugby and whether he now felt he was in a two-horse race with Nick Mallett, another South African. "From the outset, I knew I was performing the role of interim coach and knew how long the interim period would last," he said. "I also knew that interviews would be taking place. I don't want to compromise the process or my own part in it by talking. It's a 'no comment', I'm afraid."

He did, however, lift the veil on his own thinking on the vexed subject of coaching experience – the area in which Mallett, who has taken both the Springboks and Italy to global tournaments, has an obvious advantage that many assume will be decisive when the big call is finally made. "International coaching is different to club coaching, definitely," Lancaster acknowledged. "At club level, you build cohesion and work on tactics over a period of time and your season unfolds over 30 matches. It's not like that at Test level.

"But I've coached the Saxons [the second-string England side] and in that environment, just like this one, you have a short period in which to build a team of people who want to play for each other and for the shirt, who will buy into a common approach. With the Saxons, I sometimes had to deal with disappointed players who were dropping down from the Test team, as well as people who were stuck at that level and others who were looking to move up. While others were off on end-of-season holidays, you wanted these players to go up to Northampton and take on the United States. Managing that situation has certainly helped me on my coaching journey."

While the RFU says it wants to appoint a new head coach before the end of the current championship, there is no cast-iron guarantee it will do any such thing. England were the last visitors to win a Six Nations game in Paris – under Brian Ashton in 2008 – and if they deliver something similar tomorrow and head towards the final round of matches with a chance of retaining their title, the waters will be muddied once more.

Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own