Dave Craven: Lancaster out of his depth and drowned by own policy

EVERYTHING about Stuart Lancaster seemed so in order.

OUT OF HIS DEPTH: England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

From the sheer thoroughness revamping the England squad’s unacceptable and ugly culture when taking over in 2012, to the meticulous manner in which he would address the press, his omnipresent handbook at the ready.

You sensed preparation was the bedrock of his management beliefs and that is certainly worthy enough but it seems, despite what the mantra states, preparation does not always lead to performance.

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When it mattered most, in England’s World Cup campaign that had been four years in the making, there was not enough order. Things fell apart.

Their dismal and humiliating exit, the first hosts to ever be eliminated in the pool stages, meant Lancaster would have to exit one way or and another. And so he did, quitting yesterday.

But where did it go wrong? To succeed at the highest level you have to be brutal and Lancaster just wasn’t brutal enough.

That sounds absurd given the former Leeds Carnegie chief dropped high-profile, key players like Danny Care, Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi for disciplinary breaches, decisions which required real guts and bravery.

However, it was elsewhere where Lancaster needed to show a firmer hand; his reluctance to abandon the policy of not selecting overseas-based players was telling when it came to the World Cup and the Australians destroyed England at the breakdown. It was a game made for Steffon Armitage, the Toulon flanker and 2014 European Player of the Year, who was overlooked for the tournament because of that restrictive stance.

The whole Sam Burgess debate is a moot point; he was not wrong to include him in his squad. Lancaster’s gaffe was selecting TWO rookie centres. Tactics were negative in the crucial game against Wales when he ripped up everything that had gone before.

It was inevitable Lancaster would pay the price which is a shame – he is a good man endeavouring to transform an under-performing nation - but he was out of his depth.