David Flatman: Lancaster is the analogue man in a digital world – and I like it that way

From the Front Row: He does not just talk about 'engaging with the people', he actually does it

After what seems like an age, English rugby can breathe a quick sigh of relief and start getting on with it. Stuart Lancaster, the man dropped in to keep a big seat warm for a big name, somehow managed in no time to rebrand, restructure and rejuvenate the national team and has now become a big name himself. Good on him.

Searching for ways to express how I think the England set-up has changed, I could think of no better answer than to say that it is a long time since I wanted them to win so much. This may sound unpatriotic but like every professional player in the country, I have spent a good amount of time watching England games when I thought I could have been playing in them.

Deluded, perhaps, but this level of (occasionally blind) ambition is what drove us to this point. This all means that every viewing has been undertaken with just a slight twinge of bitterness and jealousy, and no little disappointment in myself for not being good enough to be there.

Of course, most of us players are mates so I would always want them to win, but there were natural, negative undertones to my support that I could not escape. Most players will deny this for fear of offending the supporters, but would you really want the men you pay to watch not to care a jot that they were not picked for England? I doubt it.

Those feelings have now all gone. Perhaps this is because any hope I had of earning more international caps is gone, or perhaps I have just grown up a bit. But I really do not think these are the only reasons.

This new – and we can call it new because it feels it – England team and their coaches and their attitude have made me a true supporter once again.

Not since I was a kid have I yelled at the television during an England match, but I did when they beat France. You see rugby is my job, not my hobby, so most games are watched with an instinctively critical eye. That tends to dilute the romance of the occasion. Once the anthems are done, it has for so long been just about watching the performance and thinking it through in my own terms.

Now I am a 10-year-old again and that, absolutely, is down to Lancaster. Sure, he is not out there playing, but he is the one – with the help of the universally admired Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell – who builds the culture in which these men have become an inspiration when we needed it most. He does not just talk about "engaging with the people", he actually does it.

His boys do it, and they do it gladly as they feel both committed to their boss's vision and lucky to be where they are. Lancaster believes in his vision and only wants men who will buy in without cynicism, without question. As a bloke he does not like his charges to be a walkover; he likes and welcomes other opinions. But if you sap energy from the group by misbehaving or moaning, you're gone. This shows both humility and ruthlessness, and this has to be good news.

From what I hear, the England camp is a fun place to be. Challenging but fun, and that is vital: players must look forward to arriving for duty. Some believe that was not always the case under the previous regime, although this seems harsh to me.

To criticise anyone who feels less than totally enthused is to again forget that this is a job and all jobs – even ones as wonderful as playing rugby for England – can feel arduous at times.

This is human nature. So Lancaster's job was to make it an aspirational environment and, social engagement and intelligent quotes aside, that must begin on the field. Without results, coaching kids and behaving properly and going back to the grass roots mean little. With results the whole vision begins to be believable and begins to make this into a team that we, as a nation, can support from the stands and from our armchairs.

Yes, a Nick Mallett or a Jake White would have given instant credibility but that would have been a dud move. Rugby should never be about buying in talent in place of backing and developing what you already have – we can leave that to the Chelseas of this world.

No, we have a proper bloke who loves rugby, works his socks off and values above all else the ethos of the team. In some ways it seems like an analogue approach in a digital world, and I'm happy with that.

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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her