Stuart Lancaster has stepped down as England head coach by mutual consent with immediate effect, the Rugby Football Union has confirmed.
An RFU statement said: “The Rugby Football Union can confirm that Stuart Lancaster has, by mutual consent, stepped down as England Head Coach.
“The decision follows England’s recent Rugby World Cup campaign which saw the team knocked out of the tournament at the pool stages after defeats to Wales and Australia.
“Lancaster was appointed full time in April 2012 and guided England to second place in all of the past four Six Nations Championships with one of his notable victories coming against the All Blacks in 2012, one of 28 wins in the 46 Test matches during which he was in charge of England.”
Lancaster expressed his “extreme sadness” at how their World Cup campaign played out, and admitted they he leaves the national set-up proud with the work he and his coaching staff have done to turn the side around from the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign after Martin Johnson's sacking.
“I am obviously extremely saddened to finish the way we did in this World Cup and to step down from the role,” said Lancaster. “As I have always said, I ultimately accept and take responsibility for the team's performance and we have not delivered the results we all hoped for during this tournament. I did, however, want to take part in the review to ensure I understood the views of others before making a decision. The reality is that, while many aspects of the review were very positive, we didn’t achieve success on the field when it mattered and we all have to take responsibility for that but me especially as head coach.
“I took on the role in difficult circumstances and it has been a huge challenge to transition the team with many hurdles along the way. However, I am immensely proud of the development of this team and I know that there is an incredibly strong foundation for them to progress to great things in the future. We have played some excellent rugby and it was always going to be tough to get the right level of experience into them in time for 2015. It is a young group of players with the huge majority available for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, where I believe their recent experience will make them genuine contenders.”
“I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and everyone at the RFU for their commitment, support and hard work in my time as head coach. But most of all, I would like to thank the England rugby fans, who have always backed us and given us amazing support. The team feels a close connection with everyone across the grassroots game, which has been important to us all.”
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie praised Lancaster for his work since taking the role in 2012, and said that any success that the national team has in the near future can be partly credited to Lancaster as he leaves a strong, young core of players for the next coaching team to take over.
''The Rugby World Cup was hugely disappointing for everyone associated with the England team and the subsequent review into the team’s performance was always intended to be extremely comprehensive, which it has been,” said Ritchie. “Stuart has been fully involved and has given feedback as well as the other coaches, players, management and a wide variety of people from around the game. Following the review, Stuart and I met, where we agreed that he should step down as head coach. This was subsequently ratified by the RFU Board.
“On behalf of all fans of the England team and the RFU I would like to express our gratitude to Stuart for all he has done for England Rugby since taking the role in 2012. Despite the results during this World Cup he has much to be proud of, and has embedded a new group of players that will be representing England for a long time to come. Looking forward, we will leave no stone unturned to ensure England achieves sustained success in the future.”
The RFU also confirmed that a recruitment process will now begin to appoint Lancaster’s replacement, who will also report to Ritchie. Their first task will be rebuilding the national team and the relationships between the players after a number of key figures have spoken of the discontent among the playing squad.
Full-back Mike Brown spoke out on Tuesday in a scathing attack on his team-mates and explained why he believes there is no longer any trust among the squad due to the constant leaks to the media since World Cup elimination was confirmed, while the departure of Sam Burgess to rugby league strengthened calls for Lancaster to go.
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