One of Stuart Lancaster’s coaching mentors believes the Rugby Football Union should appoint their interim head coach on a full-time basis regardless of the outcome of today’s Six Nations showdown with Wales.
Phil Davies coached Lancaster as a player, captain and academy director at Leeds Tykes.
And he has admired from afar how well his young apprentice has done in the most high-pressured job in rugby union.
Davies’s beloved Wales are the visitors to Twickenham today for a meeting of two unbeaten teams.
Victory for Lancaster will keep the national side on course for a grand slam and will further his claims for the top job.
But for Davies, the appointment of England’s full-time successor to Martin Johnson has to be made with the long term in mind.
And for that, Davies believes there is no-one better than Lancaster.
“What Stuart has done so far in his time with England has appealed to a lot of people and he should be given the job full-time,” said Davies, the most successful coach in Leeds’s history.
“From where Stuart started, people cannot complain about what he has delivered.
“You can debate whether he should have done this in a certain way, or that. But what he has provided is a clear direction.
“It’s not a surprise to me how well he has done. I watched him grow up from a player to a captain to an academy coach. It was always the natural progression that he would one day succeed me.
“And he’s done a fantastic job with England. Stuart’s work ethic is outstanding, as is his ability to convey messages.
“He has been in the right place at the right time for what England needed, and he has re-established within his players a pride in playing for the jersey.
“Stuart is very good at taking ideas and moulding them into his methods. He’s a very professional coach.
“He is a great reader of the game, is very clear in what he wants but he’s also flexible and if someone else has an idea, he’ll take that on board and adapt it if necessary.
“And he’s surrounded by a lot of professionalism in that coaching group; with Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell, who have the international experience to help take England forward.
“Because of what he’s done so far and because he is a good planner, a good organiser, Stuart should be given the job on a permanent basis.”
Davies spent 10 years at Leeds Tykes, joining when Lancaster was still a player.
He made him captain and then offered him the job of academy director when in 2000 a knee injury brought a premature end to Lancaster’s playing days.
During their time together Leeds rose through the national pyramid and into the Heineken Cup, and some of the traits Lancaster developed and demonstrated during his Yorkshire baptism are serving him well now in the country’s top job.
“Stuart knows the importance of playing for the badge on the front of your shirt, rather than the name on the back of it,” explained Davies. “They were the sorts of things we believed in during our time together at Leeds.
“We had a saying: ‘pride in performance’. That meant taking responsibility in delivering everything you had.
“We built the club on that Yorkshire grit and a massive work ethic. Those are principles that Stuart has taken with him to the England set-up.
“He’s a big believer that the more you put in, the more you get out.
“He’s the right man at the right time because a big-name appointment doesn’t guarantee you anything.
“It was always a case with Stuart of how far he wanted to go.
“The RFU have been very shrewd so far and Stuart has done a lot of good work for them.”
Nothing would make Davies prouder than to see his former pupil given the job of leading England into the next World Cup cycle.
But not, of course, at the expense of a defeat for Wales today.
Davies played against England six times in a 46-cap career that began with a victory against the Red Rose in Cardiff in 1985.
He won three and lost three against his country’s heated rivals, losing both times he set foot on the Twickenham turf in the red of Wales.
Davies also spilt blood for the cause when he wound up on the end of Wade Dooley’s fist in the infamous ‘Battle of Cardiff’ in 1987.
“It’s always been a tasty game,” said Davies, who is now forwards coach at Worcester. “And both teams are in good shape.
“England have been very pragmatic so far. They’ve set their stall out and have been relatively error-free.
“They’ve played two tricky away games, in tough conditions that don’t encourage flowing rugby, and they’ve got two wins.
“The key for Wales so far has been the continuity of coaching they’ve enjoyed since the World Cup and all the time they’ve had together.
“Wales will edge the scrum and England the lineout.
“But the breakdown will be massively important and I think Wales will have the ability there to get quick ball and that will prove key.”