Humble England still want to humble us
England captain Chris Robshaw, above, and coach Stuart Lancaster are cut from the same cloth, in that they go against the stereotypical idea of England rugby internationals or management as arrogant; admirably humble men, both nonetheless are confident in their abilities and determined to beat Ireland tomorrow.
England captain Chris Robshaw and coach Stuart Lancaster (above) are cut from the same cloth, in that they go against the stereotypical idea of England rugby internationals or management as arrogant; admirably humble men, both nonetheless are confident in their abilities and determined to beat Ireland tomorrow.
SIX NATIONS:Lancaster/Robshaw a winning ticket if Ireland give them half a chance
Humble England cometh. Lacking the arrogance of yesteryear, Stuart Lancaster’s men can no longer be associated with the childish “banter” that punctuated the fly-on-the-wall “video cam” footage during the disastrous 2011 World Cup campaign.
Less scandal, more coherence, with a highly-flexible game plan, this is not the England the Irish love to hate.
There is less James Haskell and Dylan Hartley, more Chris Robshaw and Tom Youngs.
One thing remains the same: a hulking pack of English forwards are coming to try and lay waste to Ireland’s Grand Slam aspirations.
It gets worse. This feels like a watershed moment for Lancaster’s England.
They rapidly digested the lessons inflicted upon them by the Springboks last year to crush the, albeit drained, All Blacks on December 1st.
Stripping everything down, it’s the Lancaster/Robshaw leadership ticket that has altered the traditional perception of arrogant England.
“I really like Stuart because there is not even a trace of ego,” said Conor O’Shea, Harlequins’ director of rugby, who is also extremely close to Robshaw.
O’Shea has a great relationship with Lancaster going back to the former’s RFU days.
“He’s unbelievably hard working, he’s very passionate and comes from a part of the world [Cumbria] where they are just naturally like that.
“Chris is the same. So in both captain and coach you got two guys who are confident in their ability but won’t get ahead of themselves. They know what is coming from Ireland.”
Both Lancaster and Robshaw initially seemed like stop gaps until a more established coach and captain partnership could be unearthed. But thumping New Zealand 38-21 was confirmation that England have left port on a voyage to conquer the world by 2015, with this pair at the helm (Remember, that tournament will revolve around Twickenham).
They very nearly sank a few miles out to sea. Defeat to Australia in November was a jolt but Robshaw’s leadership qualities came under scrutiny when he instructed Owen Farrell to kick three points when trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining against South Africa.
They were unable to secure the re-start and time ran out.
“I rang him after that match and said, ‘Forget about that decision, you were absolutely magnificent as a rugby player and that’s what you were there for’,” said O’Shea. “He was incredible that day. When people calmed down they realised he was the top tackler, the top carrier and was still learning on the job.
“Just like Ireland’s brilliant performance against Argentina, beating New Zealand gave England time to grow and evolve.”
Disastrous world cup
Lancaster’s pathway to the job was out of the ashes of a muddled and disastrous 2011 world cup campaign, led by Martin Johnson, when players anonymously slated the coaching ticket – except for Graham Rowntree – in the messy aftermath.
All that information was leaked to the London Times.
The RFU director of operations, Rob Andrew, appointed Lancaster, a former Scotland underage flanker, as the newly invented elite rugby director in 2008. He had been Leeds head coach for two seasons.