Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Hard-working England gaffer has grip on reality and wants to KO stereotypes

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

There is an understated grit about England coach Stuart Lancaster. He is determined to break down some ruin-ous stereotypes previous England teams and their staff conveyed.

That started a week ago when Lancaster took a conference call from the New Zealand media to explain the ideas and planning for England's three-test series against the All Blacks.

It was an unprecedented initiative which gave them some traction here, offered some information and the promise of an England team determined to start afresh with their Kiwi consumers.

The last time England visited in 2011 for the World Cup, they made regular headlines in the front section of the paper. It began with the night out in Queenstown when royal hubby Mike Tindall was involved in a messy pub evening with a blonde and a dwarf-throwing competition. Three players were rebuked for lewd banter at a hotel employee in Dunedin, others fined for not wearing the correct mouth guard and two staff members were sanctioned for switching a ball during a match.

The final splash came from Manu Tuilagi when he jumped off a ferry in Auckland Harbour and was disciplined by police and fined 3000 ($4800) by his team.

On day one Lancaster was resolute about engaging his audience and discussing his ideas about the tour.

His players knew his stance on etiquette and behaviour. Mistakes would be tolerated but not repeat misbehaviour if they wanted to be professional sportsmen in future England squads. Lancaster was confident his message had got through.

England were in the starting blocks for their middle-distance surge to the World Cup and any who fell off the pace in playing and behaviour standards would not get another chance.

Something had to change when Lancaster took over. England had to shelve the arrogance which surrounded them, they needed to absorb and learn rather than treat these visits as an end-of-year jolly.

Just as we quizzed Lancaster about his intentions and his squad, he wanted to know more about rugby in Auckland and beyond, what was happening in the Super 15 and NRL, where he could glean more knowledge about Kiwi sport.

He presented a strong image for England. Lancaster is a hard worker who has a grip on reality, wants to absorb any knowledge he can pilfer and is hugely determined to prime England to shake the All Blacks' core.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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