Key cycling figure Parker will join Lancaster’s team

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AMONG the first questions raised about his leadership of England, Stuart Lancaster has continued his rebuilding of the national team unabated.

The head coach, who is coming under fire after the error-strewn defeat to Australia, has recruited a new sports scientist from one of the most successful British teams of the past decade.

Lancaster is poised to strengthen his management team with the acquisition of sports scientist Matt Parker from British Cycling.

Parker was a key figure in British Cycling’s success at the last two Olympics and his work with Bradley Wiggins was integral to this year’s Tour de France triumph.

Currently the head of marginal gains at the velodrome, Parker is set to lead England’s sports science and sports medicine programmes through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Rugby Football Union is yet to confirm the appointment but it is understood Parker is in line for the position of head of athletic development which will oversee performance analysis, conditioning, psychology and lifestyle support for the national team.

“We are looking for someone of that calibre but nothing has been agreed,” said Lancaster.

“This person will play a key role in the development of the team to 2015.”

Lancaster has leapt to the defence of his captain Chris Robshaw who was out-fought and out-thought by Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper last Saturday.

Lancaster has dismissed the idea of switching Robshaw to the blindside, with Tom Wood likely to replace Tom Johnson in the 
No 6 jersey.

Lancaster said: “Chris has been named captain for the series and I’m more than happy with his contribution on and off the field. I don’t see that Chris’s performance would warrant being dropped.

“There are not many in my opinion who play at seven in England in the same way as Michael Hooper or Richie McCaw do. It’s quite hard to magic someone up to play in that way in our competition.”

Worcester’s Matt Kvesic is on Lancaster’s radar along with Andy Saull, although his progress has been hampered by a lack of game-time for Saracens.

Then there is Steffon Armitage, who was honoured on Monday as the best foreign player in the French Top 14. He fits the bill perfectly but is currently unavailable. England have a policy of not selecting overseas-based players and Lancaster appears unconvinced that Armitage can cut it at the highest level.

“I want our players to stay in England and play in England,” said Lancaster.

“At Toulon he plays behind a dominant pack and they have got world-class players in every position. They are beating everyone on the front foot.

“To play for 80 minutes, at the highest level in Test rugby, you’ve got to be fit.”