Stuart Lancaster has received a glowing endorsement from the man who will decide whether the former Leeds stalwart is named England’s full-time head coach.
Ian Ritchie, the Rugby Football Union’s new chief executive, will interview Lancaster in the coming days with the aim of appointing Martin Johnson’s permanent successor before the end of the Six Nations.
In his short time in charge, Lancaster has won two tough away games and pushed favourites Wales all the way, while also transforming public perception of the England team.
Ritchie, like much of the country, has been impressed by Lancaster’s demeanour but says he will judge the former Leeds player and coach on how he measures up against more experienced external candidates.
Ritchie said: “We are going to see Stuart while the Six Nations is under way. We have tried to do it at a time that is most convenient to Stuart.
“I appreciate it puts more pressure on Stuart because he has the day job to be getting on with. It is helpful to be able to do that so we can move the process on.
“Timetable-wise I would hope, believe, we should be in a situation to (make an appointment) by the end, towards the end, of the Six Nations.
“Stuart has done a fantastic job. I think he’s clearly entered a very difficult position, he’s done a lot of things that you could point to that we would all agree are the right things to have done.
“He is an impressive person.”
Yorkshireman Ritchie will play a lead role in the selection of the new head coach, taking advice from a panel that includes Sir Ian McGeechan, Conor O’Shea, Richard Hill and Rob Andrew.
Lancaster is the only candidate to confirm he has applied, although Nick Mallett, Eddie O’Sullivan and John Kirwan have all been linked to the job.
Ritchie said: “Selection is all about comparisons. What we need to look at is how does Stuart stack up against the other candidates?
“What Stuart has done is, by the strength of what he’s achieved, put himself on the list.
“But it’s comparative; how does he compare with the other people on the list?
“How do you compare enormous international experience with relatively limited international experience?
“How do you compare club experience with that and management styles of certain coaches?”