As well as winning four out of five since January here are three reasons why the Rugby Football Union should stick with him for the next four years.
1. He ‘gets’ culture creation
You can own as many management ‘how to’ books as you want, give Powerpoint presentations to rival Saatchi & Saatchi and talk tactics till you’re red rose in the face, but if you don’t create a positive culture you won’t get anywhere.
We like to think we’re strong minded enough to step outside the crowd, but we’re all profoundly influenced by ‘the Way We Do Things Around Here’. If it’s normal to grumble and back stab in your office, it takes a mighty effort not to grumble and back stab, even if with your mates or at church that just wouldn’t be you.
Stuart Lancaster has talked a lot about ‘creating a club culture’ around England where the everyone involved from the players to the physio feel that will stick by and fill in for each other and spur each other on to greater things. A lot of people attribute the England Cricket team’s turnaround between 2000 and 2005 to the change of team ethic and culture following the creation of players being contracted centrally toEnglandrather than their county.
2. He’s joining the national team back to the grassroots
For all Martin Johnson’s brilliant bloody-mindedness there was always an attitude during his Leicester and Englanddays of ‘sod the lot of them, we’re doing it our way’ which pulled the national team away from the public and rest of the game. Lancaster has stressed the pride of ‘pulling on the shirt’ because it is the pinnacle of a game they love.
What is the point of the elite game unless it sets a benchmark and represents the best of those that play up and down the country every week? The sense of shared endeavour, comraderie and aspiring to be the best that makes people play sport should shine out of the national team.
Last night Stuart Lancaster was coaching the Leeds under 11s and planning their tour to Scarborough. ‘Nuff Said.
3. “No Fear” is the right message in a pressure ridden game.
Stuart Lancaster wants his team to play ‘without fear’. Tackling this four years out from a World Cup is the right place. How often have we seen England football and Rugby teams freeze on the pitch over the last couple of decades and not live up to their potential because the pressure gets too much?
I’m fascinated by the psychology of tennis. I love the gladitiatorial combat as the greats go head to head. And I’m constantly amazed by the way they pull out their best shots when it really really matters.
So many of the top players play to a similar technical level, but it’s the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer that can serve the ace when they’re break point down or hit an incredible winner to clinch a crucial tiebreak.
How do they play with No Fear in the moments that actually matter the most – the points that will define their careers one way or another?
Sports people talk a lot about confidence and self belief, but developing that is a slow process of honing thought patterns and underlying attitudes. However, by making it an explicit central plank of his vision from the start, Lancaster has identified the right focus.
Right for the long term
Stuart Lancaster’s honeymoon period will be over pretty quickly as England travel to South Africa over the summer, but putting in the three foundations of a great culture, remembering the grassroots game and playing without fear point to a successful four years.