STUART Lancaster has told the Wakefield Express that he “knew it was possible” to mould the young, exciting England team that has set this year’s RBS Six Nations alight and transformed the interim boss into one of the front-runners for the permanent job.
It is only three months ago that the RFU called-upon Saxons coach Lancaster to take temporary charge of the England national team and nine weeks since the former Wakefield RFC player announced his young, inexperienced squad would defend the RBS Six Nations crown.
And yet the 42 year-old ex-Kettlethorpe High School PE teacher has quickly produced an England team that could still retain their title having chalked-up three away wins in one Six Nations championship - the first time an English team has done so in the tournament’s history.
If there were doubts that Lancaster could inspire success at the highest level, they were dismissed by last Sunday’s sensational 24-22 win in Paris, where France suffered their first home defeat in four years.
Lancaster admitted that he needed to “learn to enjoy the moment more” having wasted no time in celebrating the victory and instead, turned his attentions to Saturday’s final game of the tournament against Ireland at Twickenham.
But he also revealed that he was “chuffed for the team” and added: “The players were fantastic and I am really pleased that their efforts were rewarded.”
The scintillating performance at the Stade de France not only demonstrates the new culture and attitude within the camp that Lancaster has introduced but also the players’ pride in playing for their country - something that has been missing for a while.
Lancaster said: “I want to build a team that works hard to represent team-mates, represent family and friends and represent England.
“I think the supporters are connected with the team and you can see that the players are playing for them.”
He added: “A lot of people were disappointed how the World Cup went and I wanted to try and make sure that the public could see the team had good values.
“It has always been my plan to build for the long-term future. We have chosen to go through the cycle [of introducing new players] early but we now have three years that will set us up for the next World Cup.”
Lancaster is delighted but not surprised by the level of success he has achieved, saying: “During my time with Saxons I quickly put together teams and gave them a reason to work hard. I knew it was possible to do it [with the England senior squad].
“The scale is larger and there is more scrutiny but I was confident in my ability.”
He added: “The players have connected with the coaching team and the strength of any squad is measured by that connection.”
Lancaster and former Italy coach Nick Mallett have emerged as the favourites to take on the permanent England job and the RFU are set to announce their choice following the end of the Six Nations but the former Wakefield teacher is focused on the “massive challenge” of the Ireland game, saying: “There are things I can control and things I can’t but at the moment I am concentrating on Ireland.
“I have always tried to work hard and trust my instincts and ability. That is all you can do.
“What will be, will be. I will go out and enjoy Saturday and we will see what happens.
“It is up to the decision-makers and they still have a decision to make.”
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