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Saturday, 29 November 2014

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Stuart Lancaster set for England job interview next week

Speculation is mounting that Stuart Lancaster will be formally interviewed next week for the post of England head coach.

Stuart Lancaster photo
Stuart Lancaster

The 42-year-old Cumbrian interim head coach is among the front-runners for the job which has been vacant since the departure of Martin Johnson following a disastrous 2011 World Cup.

His main rival is highly-respected former Italy and South Africa coach Nick Mallett.

Support is growing for Lancaster both inside and outside the Rugby Football Union, and if his interview goes well, he could be confirmed as head coach by the end of the month.

The farmer’s son, from Culgaith, near Penrith, will be asked to outline his vision for the future of English rugby to a five-man panel headed by Ian Ritchie, the RFU’s new chief executive, and prove he is up to the task of leading them into the 2015 World Cup on home soil. The rest of the panel is made up of Sir Ian McGeechan, Conor O'Shea, Richard Hill and Rob Andrew.

British Lions legend McGeechan has already spoken up Lancaster’s prospects of landing the job full-time after admitting he has been impressed with the impact he has had on England since taking control for the Six Nations.

RFU chiefs have deliberately not started the interview process because they did not want it to distract its caretaker coach from the campaign.

After opening victories over Scotland and Italy, England lost 19-12 to Wales despite a spirited performance. But they underlined their growing improvement under Lancaster with a 24-22 victory in Paris and even a final weekend defeat to Ireland tomorrow might not dent his prospects of securing the job.

Lancaster first laced his boots at St Bees School and came through the ranks at Penrith before playing for Cumbria at Under-16 and Under-18 level. He was appointed Leeds Carnegie’s director of rugby and led them back to the Premiership following a title-winning season in 2006/07.

While England’s stock hit a low in the aftermath of the World Cup, Lancaster’s couldn’t be higher as he has established himself as a senior figure in the RFU since joining in 2008 in a dual role as head of elite player development in charge of the Saxons.

He guided Saxons to nine out of 10 victories, picking up three Churchill Cups, England Under-20s have been in three out of four Junior World Championship finals and last year he secured an RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam, and the Under-18 team boasts an 89 per cent win record since the start of the 2007/08 season.

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