I have always been a big fan of Stuart Lancaster and his England regime, although I must admit my support has wavered on occasion.
There have been times where his selection policies have left me somewhat frustrated, as defensively sound players were selected over those who offered a bit of magic. Equally, his decision not to select Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon at first left me somewhat bewildered that he didn’t seem to be doing everything in his power to challenge for the Rugby World Cup.
However, my opinion on this stance has since changed, as my respect for Lancaster and his current crop of players has soared in recent weeks. The reason for this you ask? Well it is largely down to former England’s World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.
It was during a recent holiday that I finally had chance to read Sir Clive’s book about his preparation for, and ultimate victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Not only did the book provide a great insight into the sheer amount of preparation that went into that World Cup victory, but it also helped give me a new understanding of Stuart Lancaster’s approach to the 2015 World Cup.
In the book Sir Clive describes the level of preparation he went to in the build up to the tournament which included him flying out to Israel to meet graphologist Yehuda Shinar (an expert in mental preparation) and an insistence on ensuring a legal representative travelled with the team to Australia (which proved to be a key feature in the tournament).
It was this level of detail and analysis that eventually led to England’s greatest rugby moment back in 2003, and it was Sir Clive’s book that opened my eyes to the level of preparation Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team are applying to the latest England side. Every single thing he does is perfectly calculated with an exact purpose in mind.
To that end it becomes apparent that the likes of Abendanon and Armitage have not been included for fear of how they may disrupt the squad. This was a key focus for Woodward when he took over as England coach as he attempted to rid the side of disruptive influences (just see what happened in 2011).
We saw further evidence of Lancaster’s meticulous preparation during the Six Nations when he had loud speakers installed at the England training camp at Pennyhill Park in a bid to emulate the noise created at the Millennium Stadium. Whilst much of this preparation will go unnoticed, it is not to be easily dismissed.
Now I’m not saying that Lancaster is going to lead England to another World Cup triumph, however I do feel that should England make it into the quarters/semis, fans should know that it wasn’t through a lack of preparation. English fans need to be realistic in their expectations for what is a very young team still, and know that Lancaster is the right man to lead them forward after the World Cup.