Humble England still want to humble us
However, the top England role, on a permanent basis, was only offered after the Irish scrum was destroyed at Twickenham last March.
“Stuart’s a level five qualified coach and there is not many of them,” O’Shea explained. “He has an unbelievable thirst for knowledge. I first came across him playing for London Irish against Leeds in a cup match in 1996.
“He became the Academy manager at Leeds , setting up the best structure in the country, it was brilliant the way he had it set up.”
O’Shea saw this first hand as, at the time, he was the RFU director of regional academies.
“His way was the example of how to do the job and at the time Leeds weren’t even a Premiership side. So they hadn’t the calling card but he made everything work. I put it down mostly to pure hard work.
“To be honest, at times someone has to save Stuart from himself because he works ridiculously hard. He’ll text you within an hour of a match being finished with an update of your player’s condition.”
The 2003 England team ticked so many boxes but one in particular that gets increasingly mentioned as time marches on is their quiet leaders.
The 2015 version appears to have similar traits. For Richard Hill then, see Tom Wood now, the brilliant Northampton flanker with the flexibility to plug the hole vacated by injured number eight Ben Morgan tomorrow. For Jonny Wilkinson see Owen Farrell as the new kicking machine.
Also, as with Clive Woodward’s group, a powerful Leicester Tigers base is evident. Geoff Parling runs both lineouts, Ben Youngs is a livewire at scrumhalf, while Dan Cole anchors the scrum.
At 25, Cole has matured to such an extent that Marco Castrogiovanni has become the Tigers’ back-up tighthead for the big European games.
But this is not Leicester’s England, it is the Premiership’s England, Lancaster’s England.
Saracens (Farrell, Alex Goode, Chris Ashton and Brad Barritt), Wasps (Joe Launchbury and Haskell), Northampton (Hartley and Wood) and champions Harlequins (Mike Brown, Danny Care, Joe Marler and Robshaw) ensure the major clubs are well represented.
Run the rule
All told, it makes Leicester club captain Geordan Murphy well placed to run the rule over the eight current, or former clubmates on tomorrow’s 23 – Billy Twelvetrees moved from Leicester to Gloucester last year.
“The All Blacks didn’t really know what hit them,” said Murphy. “England played a stifling game; they kicked the ball, chased well, but it was a couple of moments of individual brilliance that turned that game.
“They got three tries really from nothing, they ground it out and put the All Blacks under a lot of pressure.
“I thought that would be their template for the Six Nations – boring rugby, kick the corners and grind it out with a big pack – but against Scotland they came out and played offloading rugby, scoring some good tries.
“But I think they will go back to the game that beat New Zealand against Ireland. They will kick a lot and go after three- pointers.”