Stuart Lancaster aims to make Leinster a dominant force in Europe again

‘I think I come back a better coach now and I think I can give that to Leinster Rugby’

Leinster’s new senior coach Stuart Lancaster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Stuart Lancaster's specific role at Leinster will be defence coach.

Announced this morning as the "Senior Coach" on a one season contract, rather than the direct replacement for Kurt McQuilkin, who was forced to return home to New Zealand for family reasons, Leo Cullen was immediately asked to provide clarity about the 46 year old's position at the club.

Leo, who is the defence coach? “Well, Stuart will straight away. He will be stepping into the breach this week as we have a tough challenge this weekend (away) against Glasgow. There is definitely areas we can get better. Stuart will take over that this week.”

Stuart Lancaster at Monday morning’s Leinster Rugby press conference at Leinster HQ. Photograph: Inpho

Lancaster, when asked to detail his experience as a defence coach, took the opportunity to address the negative connotations surrounding what was ultimately a failed tenure as England head coach.


"If you go over my experience as a coach I have coached every part of the game," said Lancaster. "I have coached now for 16 years. I think there is a perception in England that I didn't do any coaching. Andy Farrell clearly led on defence but I was coaching defence not less than three weeks ago in New Zealand with Counties Manukau.

"So I got my own philosophy. Clearly it has been influenced by the defence coaches I have worked under. I watched Mike Ford when he was England defence coach, worked with Andy Farrell, worked with Paul Gustard in Argentina when he came with me.

“I understand a lot about defence.”

Lancaster's remit - while not described as a Director of Rugby as Cullen will continue to handle most of the non-coaching duties - does allow him assist Girvan Dempsey (attack coach) and Peter Smyth (head of academy).

“I got a reasonably broad range. Hopefully I think I can influence some of the attacking stuff as well and also reach down a little bit to some of the academy work. I come from a player development background.

“My role in England was not just head coach but head of elite player development. I think I can offer Leinster something there as well.”

His primary goal is “to help Leinster Rugby become the dominant force in Europe again and obviously go one better.”

Lancaster’s four year tenure as England head coach, having worked for the RFU since 2008 and as Leeds Carnegie Director of Rugby from 2005-07, ended in disastrous circumstances following defeat to Wales and Australia at Twickenham saw them fail to reach the 2015 World Cup quarter-final.

What lessons did he learn from that enormously stressful experience?

“We all knew leading up to it, with the Pool we were in, that it was going to be incredibly tough. It came to small margins in the end.

“Small margins that had huge consequences. It was a real shame for everyone involved.

“I look at England now and the success they have had under Eddie (Jones) and take pride in what they have achieved because I know the foundations took a while to be put into place.

“It’s been a tough nine months, you are out of the game, but when I look back over these nine months I have done some unbelievable things as a lot of coaches have reached out to me and offered to let them come see their environments.”

That includes time with NFL franchise the Atlanta Falcons, British Cycling, the English FA and the recent return to rugby with Counties Manukau in New Zealand.

“I think I come back a better coach now and I think I can give that to Leinster Rugby.

“You always learn as a coach. I am only 46 and hopefully still have a long way to go.”

Lancaster’s family will remain in Leeds as his two children are teenagers but he will be based primarily in Dublin.

“I’d been brought up as a teacher, as an academy coach and as the (England) Saxons coach so now this has given me the opportunity to redress the balance a little bit for me and do some coaching and a lot of the bigger picture stuff, Leo will get on with it and I’ll support him.”

Cullen added that the players have been “energised” by the appointment.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent