Progress under Lancaster prompts long-term thinking

Stuart Lancaster.
Stuart Lancaster.
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Stuart Lancaster has been rewarded for England’s progress in his time as head coach with a six-year contract extension.

It means the former Leeds player, academy manager and director of rugby – a surprise choice to succeed Martin Johnson in December 2011 – will coach England beyond the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.

Lancaster’s coaching lieutenants Graham Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt have also completed new deals to run until the end of the 2019-20 season.

The new contract for the Leeds resident Lancaster is the longest ever awarded to an England head coach, a massive show of faith from the Rugby Football Union.

Lancaster had to fight for his permanent appointment in March 2012, but this extended contract is a clear boost to England’s preparations for hosting Rugby World Cup 2015.

Chief executive Ian Ritchie said RFU bosses were determined to act swiftly to secure the long-term future of Lancaster and his coaching group.

“We are lucky to have a talented, committed and passionate coaching group,” said Ritchie.

“Coaching at international level is unique in that the time Stuart and the coaches have with the players is limited and in that regard it requires a special and stable coaching team.

“We therefore felt it important to secure their long-term future and we believe this is entirely the right decision for the future of England Rugby.”

Lancaster assumed the England reins on an interim basis following the fallout from the dismal run at Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand and Johnson’s exit.

The former schoolteacher quickly set about rewiring England’s cultural set-up and has been praised extensively for helping his players appreciate the significance and heritage of international rugby.

England finished second in the 2012 Six Nations, prompting the RFU to install Lancaster permanently, and the impressive 38-21 victory over New Zealand followed in December.

Lancaster said continued strong support from RFU bosses will be critical to England’s chances at Rugby World Cup 2015 and beyond.

“It’s great that the RFU have got faith in us as a coaching group and its support has been critical to what we have achieved to date,” said Lancaster, whose side also face South Africa and Australia next month.

“While our focus is on the QBE International against New Zealand and the 2015 World Cup on home soil will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we want to build a team for England Rugby that leads into Japan in 2019 and beyond.

“We believe that England Rugby is moving in the right direction, we have the right coaching and management team to take us forward and are excited about the challenge ahead.”

Former England and British Lions front-rower Rowntree joined the RFU as a national academy coach in 2007, progressing to Johnson’s backroom staff.

Ex dual-code international Farrell left Saracens for the England backs coach role in June 2012, while 2003 World Cup winner Catt joined Lancaster’s staff in September 2012.