Austin Healey Column
Only Stu will do for England
March 21, 2012
Are Graham Rowntree, Stuart Lancaster and Andy Farrell England's dream team? © Getty Images
Many people are saying Stuart Lancaster has made the RFU's task of selecting England's next head coach tougher thanks to his side's Six Nations showing. He hasn't. He's made it simple. All they have to do is remove the word interim from his job title and let him get on with it.
Lancaster is absolutely the right man for the job and should be given the role full time. He has brought a lot of old fashioned values to a technical world and the players and the team have really benefited from his approach. And crucially, he's unearthed some great new talent.
Sometimes as a head coach you mould your game to the players you have and other times you are fortunate enough to find players who fall into your game plan. England's back-row is a great example. At the start of the Six Nations we didn't have the right balance. But then No.8 Ben Morgan came in and there was suddenly a brilliant balance with his powerful running coupled with Tom Croft's pace out wide and lineout ability and Chris Robshaw's sheer desire to be everywhere - he is a true workhorse. Then there is Owen Farrell who looks like the fly-half that England have really been missing since Jonny Wilkinson's best days.
Some people are suggesting an older, more experienced international coach should be added to the mix. But again, there's no need. The coaching trio of Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell has performed really well together and these guys are experienced enough. Former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith would be a good option as a backs coach but only if Farrell is taken back by Saracens.
Of course, Danny Cipriani could be back in contention next season after agreeing to join Sale Sharks. At the moment there may be as many as ten English fly-halves who would have to go down injured for him to get a look in. But things change quickly. He has definitely got undoubted talent and if he finds the form of his early career then he will be challenging again. Sale is a really good place for him to go because Steve Diamond doesn't take any messing around and hopefully he can bring the best out of Danny.
Overall, the Six Nations was a really good this year. The atmosphere at Twickenham especially was awesome and there were some great individual performances, with the likes of Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate, Wesley Fofana and David Denton all catching the eye. But there's no doubt about the team of the tournament.
Wales are clearly the best side in the northern hemisphere at the moment. England could, and may be should, have beaten them at Twickenham. But that was a one off and across the tournament Wales looked very strong. Fitness has been a really big factor for Wales. In the last 20 minutes of most of their matches they have run away with it when in the past they could have potentially lost some of those games.
The big test for them will come in Australia this summer. As Warren Gatland has already said, it is one thing to win the Six Nations at home and something very different winning a series in the southern hemisphere.
Talking of tours down under, it looks like Gatland has a massive decision to make. It's one that could potentially make or break Wales' 2015 World Cup chances. If he believes Wales are on the right track towards the World Cup, which they clearly appear to be, then it's not the best move to take on the British & Irish Lions. As we saw with Graham Henry when he led the Lions to Australia in 2001, it's very difficult to go back and coach Wales again.
So, while we're at it, who should lead the Lions? Firstly, they should be British or Irish. I say that on the back of my experience of being coached by Henry on the tour to Australia, and it wasn't favourable. I would actually back Martin Johnson for the job.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Austin Healey is Lead Analyst for ESPN Rugby
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