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Friday 15 December 2017

World Cup woes back to haunt Blues coach

Comments of Andrew force Leinster's Lancaster to revisit 2015 RWC nightmare

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster during squad training
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster during squad training

Stuart Lancaster is a company man to the marrow of his bone.

The Leinster senior coach woke yesterday morning with a dreadful sense of 'déjà vu.'

He had been savaged for losing the plot as England coach at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Now, the nightmare that never ends was back to test his patience on the first week of The Champions Cup.

The painful part of it all was that it came from his former boss, Rob Andrew, then the RFU's Director of Professional Rugby.

"Everybody's entitled to an opinion. Rob has given his and that's his right, I guess," responded Lancaster.

"You learn a lot about about yourself as a national team coach and you learn a lot about other people as well.

"We'll leave it at that."

While Lancaster took the high ground, there was a sense of a man in pain, one hurt by comments from a shocking source - a friend.

The selling of books can be a sordid business. Unique selling points don't come cheap.

Swipe

They have to cost someone along the line. Ex-players are usually the source of angst against ex-bosses.

Former England out-half Andrew, now seated as Chief Executive to Surrey cricket club, took the swipe at the man he once supported to lead England.

This must have raised the ugly memory of how Lancaster could do little to protect his family from the flak he had to take in 2015.

Now, two years later, Lancaster was front and centre of another storm unable to attend to those most hurt by it.

It was noteworthy how his 'friend' had not even had the decency to make a call to Lancaster.

"I have to say I didn't see this coming. I wasn't aware that anything was being written," he said.

"But I guess it's part and parcel of being a national coach, you know, when you take the responsibility you're accountable when it doesn't go well.

"I think I did that from the start and I will still continue to do that."

Andrew's opinion is that Lancaster ruined the culture he had built up by throwing Rugby League convert Sam Burgess in as a spanner in his work.

There is a solid argument to be made there. But the Cumbrian was unwilling to take the bait.

"I'm not going to go there, I've got my thoughts and I'll keep them to myself for the time being.

"What I want to try and do is pass on what I've learnt as a coach to other coaches, to teachers, to people in leadership positions and also more importantly to people in Ireland and to Leinster.

"I don't think it will do anyone any good by going back all over that now."

Lancaster doesn't have the time to dwell on the 'there and then' when there is the 'here and now.'

Indeed, the end of his England tenure distorted so much of what went before it.

"I think coaching England, I coached over 50 international games which I think puts me second most or around there - Clive Woodward has obviously got the most experience.

"It does give you a lot of experience. You go through good times, you have great wins and great moments. You go through tough times as well. You learn a lot about yourself and other people."

It was in the intervening period between England and Leinster that Lancaster came into contact with Vern Cotter as one of many voices.

"He was very, very good with me after the World Cup.

"He came and spoke briefly and we all understand the tightrope we walk as coaches in that position. He was one of those coaches who reached out."

There is a distinction to be made between being a career coach, quite an achievement in itself, and a cabinet trophy coach.

Lancaster's road to redemption will only be complete if he is still in place when Leinster win their first trophy since the 2014 PRO12 League.

"Every coaches' aim is to deliver trophies," he said. "My aim is not motivated by proving people wrong or trying to change people's perceptions.

"It's trying to do the right thing on a daily basis, trying to do the right thing for Leinster, trying to improve the players, to improve the environment.

"As coaches, we have a lot of control, but we don't have the ultimate control as to whether you win.

"You want to empower your players to take responsibility for that and that's what I'm trying to do at Leinster.

"I don't think my motivation is any different to any other coach.

"If you spoke to Vern Cotter, what's his motivation? He left Scotland in a very positive light.

"But he'll be massively motivated to win the European Cup for Montpellier as I am for Leinster."

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