Chris Hewett: In Stuart Lancaster England have a teacher eager to learn

He sees is as a sign of strength to sit down and listen to those offering fresh perspectives on well-worn themes

Any man who applies for a head of department's job at a high school before actually qualifying as a teacher, as the England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster did way back when in the 1990s, is not obviously short of positivity, enthusiasm and self-belief – three foundation stones of what he calls the "pyramid of success". Another of those building blocks is the "balanced ego": a virtue only occasionally associated with sports folk operating at elite level.

To the 43-year-old Cumbrian's mind – and when it comes to high performance and its maximisation, his mind is patently far better developed than his critics had us believe this time last year – that balance is achieved, at least in part, by the open acknowledgement that there is always more to learn. Hence his strong attachment to the musings and theories of such fabled figures as the American football coaches Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi, the Stateside basketball boss John Wooden (who first came up with the "pyramid" idea) and the Australian rugby league strategist Wayne Bennett.

During his frequent long drives from the north of England to Twickenham or the red-rose base in Bagshot – he has been known to set off at 3am in an effort to spare himself the worst miseries of the M25 – he listens to the notions of Walsh and Lombardi in "talking book" form. In conversation, he frequently cites other influences on his career, not least one of those who coached the England team before him, Brian Ashton.

Lancaster routinely asks leading practitioners from other sports, both major and minor, to address his players at squad gatherings. Last week the former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss was invited to the pre-Six Nations training camp in Leeds, as was Toni Minichiello, the coach of the Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Jessica Ennis. Previously, he has persuaded the former England footballer Gary Neville and the Tour de France-winning cyclist Bradley Wiggins to offer their thoughts on sporting success.

To Lancaster, it is a sign of strength, rather than of weakness, to sit down and listen to those offering fresh perspectives on well-worn themes, just as he is happy to give the floor to his England back-room colleagues when the situation demands. As head coach, he played a strong hand in establishing new ground rules for the national squad, jettisoning those players he felt were more trouble than they were worth and reminding others, some of them all too easily led during the tawdry World Cup campaign of 2011, of their responsibilities to the shirt. But there are natural communicators of a different stamp in his set-up – the authoritative and straight-talking Andy Farrell, for instance – and he understands their value.

Lancaster frequently talks of the "chemistry" in his coaching team being all-important and is a believer in partnership. The "great man" theory of everything – the idea that nothing was ever achieved except by one man acting alone – is not for him. He is not the first England rugby coach to cherry-pick the best that has been thought and done across the broad spectrum of sport: Sir Clive Woodward did something similar during the years that led to the World Cup victory in 2003. He may, however, be the first to engage in a cross-sport alliance on this scale.

Five wise men: coaching club

Stuart Lancaster

Has worked for the RFU for four years; appointed England coach last year after a successful interim stint.

Mike Forde

Director of football operations at Chelsea since 2007. His remit includes player recruitment.

Geoff McGrath

Runs McLaren Applied Technologies, which has branched out into helping other sports.

Dave Brailsford

Oversaw British cycling's historic 2012 – a first ever Tour de France victory, and eight Olympic golds.

Damien Comolli

Left Liverpool last April after an unsuccessful spell as director of football strategy.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star