Lancaster set for all-powerful role
January 30, 2013
England boss Stuart Lancaster looks set to head up a new International Performance Department at the Rugby Football Union © PA Photos
England coach Stuart Lancaster is set to head up a new International Performance department at the Rugby Football Union following an in-depth review into the structure of the elite game.
The shake-up has been recommended by Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen, one of the architects of Great Britain's Olympic success from his time as performance director at UK Sport, who were tasked with analysing the RFU's professional rugby department in the wake of last year's Rugby World Cup.
Lancaster's likely promotion to a position where he will be responsible for all national sides and player development comes just over a year after he took interim charge of England. The RFU will also recruit a new head of player development to report into him.
His expanded remit will see Rob Andrew, the current professional rugby director and who along with Lancaster had significant input into the review, relinquish all responsibility for the performance department and concentrate on other areas of the game including the relationship between Premiership clubs, Championship clubs and the RFU.
"This is the option the five of us believe is the right structure to optimise the performance of the England team," said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie who is also adamant that the expanded role will impact on his ability to coach the national side.
"Stuart believes this is absolutely the right way to go. Elements of what we're talking about, he is doing anyway. He is very comfortable," Ritchie said. "I don't see this as adding a burden of responsibility on Stuart - a time-consuming thing diverting him away from the senior England team.
"The England set-up is very plugged into the RFU. Stuart will continue to get a lot of support from me, from Rob Andrew and from this new key role that will come in. That is a serious grown-up role. It is someone who will have a key role in the development of England teams. It will be a seriously mature person who will be able to deal with a lot of these things on his own. He has to report into Stuart."
Commenting on the recruitment of a head of player development to work alongside Lancaster, he said: "What you are doing is putting into place a structure that lasts beyond any particular head coach. This is an RFU full-time, permanent position. It's not like a football scenario where, if the manager changes, the whole coaching team changes. It is a full-time development role."
The review, that also incorporated the views of England players, RFU staff, coaches and support staff from leading Premiership clubs, concluded that the elite game was in "good shape with a bounty of young talent" but also noted that the structure of the RFU was "complicated" and that the conflicting demands of club and country are "a challenge".
In particular, the authors found that a lack of a national training centre was a "barrier to the alignment of all England senior and age-grade team activities, as well as the development of coaches" and called for a facility "that will provide the world's best developmental environment for players and staff". It also called for it to be up and running within 12 months of the end of the 2015 Rugby World Cup to take advantage of the momentum hosting that tournament is set to generate.
Keen said: "My task was to apply the same analysis to England Rugby as I have to other sports striving to be the very best in the world. What I found compared favourably with some of the very best practice I have observed in elite sport. I have been impressed by the quality of the people, their thinking and their actions.
"I have also been struck by the strong values and culture of rugby. Although areas for change and improvement have been identified, these align well with the momentum already building towards the 2015 World Cup. England Rugby needs accelerated evolution, not revolution."
McGeechan was wary of the demands of both club and country and stressed the need for continued co-operation. He said: "The strength of relationships between the clubs and the RFU is paramount for the professional game in England to develop fully. We have spent many months talking to a wide variety of people on this very subject, and it is clear that great strides have been taken in this area, particularly with the coaches.
"The collaborative relationships must continue to be strengthened for the good of the game, so that everyone benefits. This integrated approach, across every facet of performance, will create a thriving base of professional players. From this base a strong club game, and even stronger international game, will continue to evolve so all the game's inherent potential is realised."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.