James Lawton: Is Lancaster really too raw for the RFU after all this?

It's getting increasingly hard for England to look anywhere but to their caretaker coach

We keep being told Stuart Lancaster is too raw, too inexperienced to take the England he has picked up from – well, you might say the gutter – on to the big stage of World Cups and the potentially devouring challenges that beckon in the southern hemisphere.

However, if this is the eventual decision of the Rugby Football Union, whose last great misadventure was to place all its faith in the iconic playing reputation but zero coaching background of Martin Johnson, it had better hire an advocate of exceptional power and lucidity.

This will be necessary if they want to make the smallest inroads into a proposition that seemed pretty much unanswerable in the Stade de France last night.

It was that after being handed the ultimate hospital pass of regenerating the squad which left New Zealand a few months ago as the laughing stock of every serious corner of world rugby, the only smudge on his reputation is an extremely narrow defeat by a Welsh team which next weekend should announce themselves as one of the more impressive Grand Slam winners of recent years.

If Lancaster had merely given the new England a fresh set of values, an understanding of what is required if you want to call yourself a fully fledged professional, he would be due, if not the job wrapped up in gift paper, at least a huge vote of thanks and a position for life in the Twickenham technical staff that apparently never saw the disaster in New Zealand as even a smudge on the horizon.

But of course Lancaster has done far more than emerge as some textbook czar of discipline.

He has had the courage to invest his future reputation with a belief that in the biggest playing population in all of rugby England have young players who can indeed create new horizons, new belief.

That, surely, was the meaning of yesterday's victory over the team who, while the old England were slinking back home, came so close to winning their first World Cup against the force and obsessive ambition of the All Blacks.

France's new coach Philippe Saint-André may have made a mess of his team selection, may have failed again to produce the kind of rugby that might have been expected of a team of established success and such brilliant potential as the new try-scoring phenomenon Wesley Fofana, but that does nothing to cloud the fact that Lancaster's young lions again took a major step forward.

Perhaps there is a case for Twickenham to consider the experience and the coaching facility of men like Nick Mallett and former All Blacks back coordinator Wayne Smith. Maybe the work of Lancaster could be effectively augmented by men who have been around the international block a few more times.

However, it is extremely hard to believe that it should be at the expense of the impact of the quiet but formidably committed coach who yesterday could draw so much pride in his belief in such young contenders as the glacial Owen Farrell and the impressively controlled ex-tearaway Manu Tuilagi.

Lancaster came under trenchant attack for preferring Farrell to Toby Flood at No 10. His reaction was mild but he insisted that he had seen things in the youngster which made him believe that he was not a thought for the future but a biting asset of today. It means that however the job interviews go, however Twickenham sifts through its data, Lancaster can always draw the deepest professional satisfaction from the sight of Farrell scooping up a pass which opened the way to yesterday's win – and then of him stopping in its tracks the incomparable momentum of a man like Imanol Harinordoquy.

These were not the deeds of a promising tyro. They were the work of a player who had been in need only of a little backing, a little proper interpretation of the talent he had already displayed.

And if the French, almost by reflex action, made Harinordoquy the man of the match, Lancaster surely nursed his own selections with great pride.

Tom Croft had to be a prime contender with his game-breaking try, when he ran not only like a stag but one equipped with extremely fine antennae. It was the most dramatic point of a superb performance.

When Farrell was asked about the degree of his disappointment when he failed with one kick, which bounced off the French woodwork, he looked genuinely bewildered. Frankly, he couldn't remember. No doubt he had already moved on.

Where he seemed most grounded, though, was in defining the strengths of the new England, the ones imposed by Lancaster when not too many beyond the shadows of Twickenham knew his name.

"We have good values about us," said Farrell. They do indeed – and Twickenham has a duty not to forget who it was who put them there.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
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

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?