Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Stuart Lancaster to pursue coaching brains trust


Stuart Lancaster believes a British sport brains trust will help move his England rugby union team up the world rankings. Entering his second year as England's head coach, Lancaster intends to repeat the meetings he has had with Sir Dave Brailsford from cycling, cricket's Andy Flower and Roy Hodgson from football, and he described Hodgson as "a coach in the purest sense of the word".

The England squad for the Six Nations' Championship meet in Leeds this evening ahead of the opening match, at home to Scotland on 2 February, two months on from the 38-21 win over the world's No 1 ranked team, New Zealand.

"We're ranked fifth in the world at the moment and we want to improve on that," Lancaster said. "We recognise that one game doesn't mean we've become the world's best team. We've got to make sure we're consistent.

"I met Roy Hodgson – he, to me, is a coach in the purest sense of the word," he added. "If you look at his track record, where he's coached and the level he's coached at, at so many different clubs, there are so many experiences that we talked about that I could tap into, about getting the best out of players and creating winning environments. At club level it's probably unprecedented, his track record.

"I met Andy Flower, and it was the same thing. Football, cricket, and rugby league as well – we all have similar traits when we're national coaches, aiming to create that high-performing culture in a short space of time.

"We meet as much as we can. It makes sense for it to happen more. We all want to learn from each other how to be better. We want to be world-leading in sport."

Lancaster has recruited sports scientist Matt Parker from British Cycling, and said: "At this level very small margins can win or lose games. Dave Brailsford is a hugely impressive man. He's done a great job in taking cycling from where we were good and competitive in world sport to being world leaders.

"He surrounded himself with great people and it's a model we'd like to replicate; a team the people in Britain are proud of, and rightly so. The main thing from Dave was about the quality of people you get around you. You've seen what he's achieved in the last year – he's been knighted and won coach of the year at the BBC Sports Personality. If we can take a little piece of that it would be good."

Lancaster showed Hodgson a presentation about handling players from different clubs and setting aside loyalties. "They're club players the majority of the time," said Lancaster. "It's about how you get players from different clubs that one week are playing against each other to get together to play for each other and for the team. When we went to South Africa [in June] was an example. We had a big club game in the Premiership final just before we left, we had players coming from the two teams [Harlequins and Leicester]. To get them to put that to one side and move on to playing for England against South Africa was a challenge.

"But the players are brilliant at it now, they recognise the difference between the two, and they can put that inter-club rivalry to bed. I want to make sure we've got that club environment and club feel in an international team so it feels like their second club.

"Expectations have been raised on the back of beating New Zealand and it's our responsibility to make sure we hit the ground running in the Six Nations and replicate the intensity and accuracy we put into that performance."

Stuart Lancaster was speaking as an ambassador at the launch of the 2013 NatWest RugbyForce programme