FORMER Leeds Carnegie rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster admitted his first job as England’s interim coach will be to “get the culture right” in the wake of the World Cup fiasco.
Lancaster steps up from his dual role of England Saxons coach and head of player development to take charge until a permanent replacement for Martin Johnson is appointed.
Graham Rowntree is the only member of England’s senior World Cup management team to be retained while Andy Farrell, the former dual international, has been seconded from Saracens.
There is no place in the England set-up for defence coach Mike Ford or forwards coach John Wells, who had worked with the national team since 2006.
Johnson and attack coach Brian Smith stood down after England’s failed World Cup campaign, which was dogged by controversy and ended with a quarter-final defeat to France.
Leaked reports painted the picture of a dysfunctional squad, riven by a lack of trust with some players motivated more by money than rugby.
Lancaster, who had a watching brief with England during the World Cup, said: “With Graham Rowntree’s experience of being out in New Zealand and my experience of being out in New Zealand and everything that has been said subsequently, we hope to learn those lessons.
“We want to get the culture right, we want to ensure we have a talented group of young players who are hungry for success, who are ambitious, who want to win things and it’s our job as a coaching team to put that in place and to make sure that going forward we’ve got a foundation to build upon toward 2015.”
Lancaster believes now is the time to give England’s promising young stars a chance to shine, which suggests the likes of Mike Tindall and Nick Easter could struggle for a place in the squad.
In contrast, Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Farrell’s son Owen could all be in line for a call-up.
“We have got a fantastic group of young players coming through. We have an opportunity to look at them and see how they get on on the international stage and I don’t think we should shy away from that,” said Lancaster, who had been helping coach West Park Leeds Under-11s on Wednesday and who at Headingley developed some of the brightest prospects in the game, such as future England internationals Jordan Crane and Danny Care.
Lancaster hopes a successful Six Nations campaign can provide the platform for the rebuilding of the national team in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup.
“We have the talent clearly in this country,” said Lancaster. “We want to finish the Six Nations in a strong position, with a strong foundation building to 2015.
“We have 41 games between now and the next World Cup and we need to use those games wisely.”
Reflecting on his appointment, former Leeds director of rugby Lancaster added: “There is a sense of responsibility and a huge honour that we have to represent the England team. It’s something as a player I always dreamed of and something as a coach I never dreamed of.
“To get the opportunity to sit here as the England head coach is an unbelievable opportunity and I’m very privileged to be here.”
Lancaster outlined his plans for how he hopes to take the team forward in the wake of their disappointing World Cup campaign.
“It starts with players,” he said. “It starts with talent and character. We want players who are hungry and ambitious, who want to go on and beat the best and be the best.
“We want players who have pride in the shirt. What we need to do is to make sure they recognise that and buy into that.
“We recognise the responsibility to get that team right, get the culture right, and get back on the right track.”
Lancaster was quick to suggest he would be looking to lay the foundations for a new England side – potentially ominous news for some of the veterans left over from the World Cup.
“In terms of selection my first port of call is to the directors of rugby, having been one I know that no-one knows the players better than them,” he said.
“We want to look at new players and give them a chance in the six nations, no doubt about it.
“When the time comes for the Elite Players Squad selection, for the seniors and the Saxons, we certainly want to give opportunities to some new players.”
Lancaster last night received congratulations from Headingley.
Head coach Diccon Edwards, a former team-mate and colleague, said: “Stuart has done an outstanding job over many years in whatever role he has performed. I know that he will relish taking this job on and helping England through a difficult period.”
USA international and long-serving prop Mike MacDonald, who played for Lancaster in his first two seasons at Leeds, said: “I think the RFU have made a very smart move.
“They do not want to rush into a snap decision on the long-term successor to Martin Johnson and in Stuart they have someone who has the right resume to take them forward in the meantime.”
Taking charge at Twickenham
Position: Interim head coach.
Honours: Promotion with Leeds in 2007, three Churchill Cup wins with England Saxons.
Who is he? A former PE teacher, Lancaster captained Leeds before taking charge of academy in 2001. Promoted to director of rugby in 2006, overseeing promotion to and then relegation from Premiership. Moved to RFU, where he has been England Saxons coach and head of elite player development.
Position: Interim assistant.
Honours: Five championships and four Challenge Cups with Wigan; 34 GB RL caps; eight England RU caps. Head coach at Premiership champions Saracens.
Position: Interim assistant.
Honours: 54 England caps; three Lions caps; three Six Nations titles, including two grand slams; five Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups with Leicester. Former prop is the only surviving member of Martin Johnson’s management team.