Gerry Thornley: Appointing Stuart Lancaster a good move

Arrival of former England head coach should benefit the province and Lancaster himself

Stuart Lancaster: is widely seen as damaged goods in light of England’s World Cup, but plenty of coaches are damaged along the way. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Stuart Lancaster: is widely seen as damaged goods in light of England’s World Cup, but plenty of coaches are damaged along the way. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

At face value, appointing Stuart Lancaster as a senior coach with specific responsibilities for defence has echoes of Rassie Erasmus being brought in by Munster.

However, this has been done without undermining Leo Cullen to the same extent that occurred with Anthony Foley and the rest of Munster’s indigenous coaching ticket.

Cullen has not been usurped by a new head coach/director of rugby with responsibility for selecting the team. Also, given Lancaster has only signed on until the end of the season, Cullen not be superseded in practice, never mind title. He is head coach who will select the team and decide on replacements, though he now has an experienced coach to lean on.

Unlike Erasmus, who was more of an IRFU appointment, Lancaster is a Leinster appointment. He will hardly be made the boss for nine months given the possibility of him then moving on. Nor would Lancaster be inclined to undermine Cullen.

The exact nature of Lancaster’s role was a little vague yesterday, with a press release describing his role as a “senior coach”. However, at the press briefing, Cullen said he would take over from the departed Kurt McQuilkin as defence coach with immediate effect.

That said, both Cullen and Lancaster also talked of him lending a hand with Leinster’s attack, as well as the academy.

Second Captains

Broader remit

Mike FordEddie Jones

As he intimated yesterday, that role became more and more of an overseeing, off-field role, whereas this enables him to be more hands-on. That will be good for him, as well as taking some of the pressure off Cullen. As an aside his proven working relationship with Andy Farrell can only be helpful.

Lancaster can thus bring more to Leinster than just overseeing a defensive system and training sessions and assuredly will. Glasgow’s potency over Connacht last Saturday will give him plenty to work on this week in advance of Saturday’s meeting at Scotstoun.

As in practically any sport, making it more difficult for the opposition to score is much easier than inventing or improving ways to score. Under McQuilkin after all, Leinster had the best defence in the Guinness Pro12 last season.

While the evidence of their pre-season games and last Friday’s opening win over Treviso (when Leinster made 215 passes and kicked only 22 times) strongly hints at more of a Graham Henry/New Zealand-influenced running game, it’s clearly a work in progress.

To a degree, it would seem that Lancaster’s appointment, like the enlisting of Henry in a consultancy role over the off-season, is another example of Leinster’s fire-fighting ever since the slightly kneejerk decision to remove Matt O’Connor at the end of the 2014-15 season with no apparent Plan B. This led to the appointment of an inexperienced indigenous coaching ticket (McQuilkin apart).

Whether or not Cullen initially contacted Lancaster of his own volition or was encouraged to do so, it was made abundantly clear that the call to Lancaster came directly from Cullen.

In approaching Henry and Lancaster, Cullen has been confident enough to acknowledge that he, Girvan Dempsey and John Fogarty need help, all the more so now that McQuilkin has returned home in desperately unfortunate circumstances. Indeed, it was striking how often Cullen used the word “inexperienced” in describing himself as a coach.

Positive impact

Graham HenryMatt WilliamsMichael Cheika

Hence, co-opting Lancaster on to an otherwise inexperienced coaching ticket looks a good move for the province and indeed for Lancaster himself. As he said yesterday, he intends commuting between Dublin and his wife and two teenage kids in northern England rather than re-locate his family abroad. So not only is this a good fit for him on a personal level, but it puts him back in the forefront of northern hemisphere coaching.

At the same time, clearly, in not moving over to Dublin and signing a longer-term contract a la Andy Farrell, both Lancaster and Leinster are adopting something of a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to make it a longer-term arrangement.

It’s not as if, after all, there are that many experienced and available coaches out there; nor from Lancaster’s standpoint, are there that many jobs so relatively close to home.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Leinster were left with a void in their coaching structure and have moved swiftly to fill it with a slightly manufactured appointment. As bulk suppliers to the team Ireland, Leinster’s squad requires the most man-management. Lancaster’s role will evolve in due course, and he is perhaps not the exact fit, but on balance another voice, especially an experienced one from the outside, ought to be beneficial for the coaching staff and thus the playing squad.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.