FOR many of the English public, preparation for the Rugby World Cup centres mainly around whether they can get match tickets or, for the majority of the interested population, in which pub they are actually going to watch events unfold.
For Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, however, the build-up to tomorrow’s opener against Fiji has involved four years of meticulous, precise planning.
Indeed, as Neil Squires outlines in his new book ‘The House Of Lancaster: How England Rugby Was Reinvented’, no stone has been left unturned in the former schoolteacher’s quest to take the Red Rose to the top of the world once more.
As the rugby union writer for the Daily Express, Squires is well placed to examine Lancaster’s approach, beliefs and success and failures so far in the lead up to this tournament.
Indeed, furthermore, having fulfilled the same role for the Yorkshire Post earlier in his career, gaining an insight into the man as he reported when Lancaster was still an energetic open-side for Leeds Tykes, Squires has seen first-hand the 45 year-old’s remarkable progression to one of the top jobs in world rugby.
With a mixture of detailed analysis, choice exclusive comments from leading players and coaches alike and his own comment, Squires gives a fine commentary on just what makes Lancaster tick.
Let us not forget, some people were incredulous when the former Leeds head coach – who never played international football – succeeded 2003 World Cup winner Martin Johnson as England chief following a farcical tournament four years ago.
Johnson had stood down after a woeful quarter-final exit and the squad was followed by chaos and mayhem after some damaging off-field incidents, too.
Lancaster had been working diligently at the RFU as their elite rugby director and was also leading the second-string England Saxons.
He was put in caretaker charge while a list of seasoned top-end head coaches applied for the main role but the Cumbrian did enough in the Six Nations and impressed sufficiently with his overall approach, leadership and culture-shift to persuade the powers-that-be that he had enough in his arsenal to do it himself.
Squires’s book details what made him such an impressive candidate and how he set about rebuilding England’s shattered image, reconnecting them with the public while drawing upon theories and practices from everywhere from the fabled All Blacks to the NFL to seek those extra little percentages required for the national side to return to the summit of the sport.
He also describes how Lancaster was in a similar position when succeeding Phil Davies as Leeds Tykes head coach in 2006 – he had never coached adults before, having been promoted from within after his sterling work with the club’s academy.
Lancaster’s unwavering principles – on discipline, work ethic and humility – were already well in place then and Squires explains how, in tandem with his own coaching methods, they have allied to leave England standing potentially on the verge of greatness once more.
A fascinating and revealing account of what one of the biggest jobs in world sport truly involves.
‘The House of Lancaster: How England Rugby Was Reinvented’ is published by Yellow Jersey Press, £18.99