Oval Talk

The challenge starts now for Lancaster and co

Oval Talk

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England coach Stuart Lancaster at his unveiling

Careful how loudly you say this but the RFU might have actually made a right decision for once by appointing Stuart Lancaster as the new England coach.

The man from Penrith deserved the chance after a positive performance in the Six Nations. The RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said England's showing in the Championship was not the only reason for Lancaster being appointed but it should be the main one.

After all of the speculation as to who would take the job and the talk of Nick Mallett being the preferred candidate Lancaster must have edged it because of what he has done since December.

The former Leeds Carnegie director of rugby now has three-and-a-half years to make England a side which could win the World Cup in 2015. Graham Rowntree is also on board and hopefully negotiations between the RFU and Saracens will go well and Andy Farrell will be allowed to work for England on a permanent basis.

Because no matter how much praise Lancaster receives, which he rightly deserves, the success has only come because of the qualities and support from Rowntree and Farrell. Rowntree has stepped up from scrum coach to take overall responsibility for the forwards and has done so with aplomb. Farrell, who is a natural leader yet possesses such a calm demeanour, has carried out an equally impressive job with the backs.

And the freshness of the trio has rejuvenated the England team. Never is it more evident than when Lancaster is interviewed; the guy never avoids a question and is very honest. He comes across as an engaged and enthusiastic character as opposed to a seasoned coach who has become jaded by the increasing monotony of it all.

The biggest challenge for Lancaster and his team now is to manage expectations. They did well in the Six Nations but that is in no small part due to how nobody expected England to challenge for the title. The promise shown will now spark optimism ahead of the summer tour to South Africa.

England are still a long way off the level of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Wales when you compare man for man. It is a cliche but judge the performances not the results against a Springboks side who beat the Lions comfortably in 2009.

If these early signs of promise are whipped into a frenzy of hope and expectation then Lancaster's vision will be crumpled and the journey, which he often refers to, could well come to an abrupt end. That could especially be the case if England run straight into a wall of raised expectations and also struggle in the Autumn internationals as well as next year's Six Nations.

England are not world beaters, not yet anyway, so Lancaster, Rowntree and (probably) Farrell should be left alone to try and make it happen. At the moment England's World Cup chances are only a whisper; too much talk and noise will destroy them. But if nutured properly that whisper will become the roar of a lion by 2015.

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