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Is the Lancaster Criticism Harsh?

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Following England’s poor performance at the World Cup, Stuart Lancaster has resigned as England Head Coach. Lancaster took the reigns from Martin Johnson back in 2012, first as a temporary replacement before being handed the job permanently. And while Lancaster’s reign has ended in disappointment, it is worth remembering the good work he carried out during his time as the head of English Rugby.

Lancaster put pride back into the English shirt after several players faced disciplinary issues following England’s 2011 World Cup campaign. Lancaster disposed of players who failed to show the shirt respect and took to building a young side which performed as well off the field as they did on it. Lancaster also refused to pick players from France, instead choosing to prioritise those who played English domestic rugby. However, in the end this ultimately backfired, with England not being able to select the likes of Manu Tuilagi and Steffon Armitage due to these rules.

Lancaster had a good record in the Six Nations. In the four campaigns he oversaw, England consistently competed at the top of the table, winning the tournament once. In the twenty Six Nation games Lancaster was in charge of, England won 16, losing only four. While Lancaster would have liked to have won more Championships, he was competing with a strong Ireland side and a Wales side that always posed a threat.

While Lancaster proved he was more than capable of leading England against Northern Hemisphere side, his results against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia were less impressive. In total, Lancaster took charge of 15 games against the three giants of rugby, winning just three. His best result came towards the end of 2012, when England secured a famous 38-21 victory against New Zealand. The victory raised expectations for English rugby, although it eventually turned out this result was a flash in the pan. 2014 saw England lose five consecutive games against New Zealand and South Africa, and their inability to beat the big team tarnished Lancaster’s reign.

It was England’s ability to qualify from the 2015 World Cup group stage which eventually saw Lancaster lose his job. We will never know what will have happened if England had held onto the lead in the game against Wales, but if England had reached the knock-out stages Lancaster ma well have decided to stay on his role and build for 2019.

While Lancaster won’t go down as the best England coach of all time, he shouldn’t go down as the worst either. While he may have lacked the ability to beat the biggest teams, his record in the Six Nations and his work to re-establish pride in the England shirt should not be forgotten. Lancaster did not become a bad coach overnight and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t offered another coaching job now he has left his position as England coach.

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