Rugby: Spare a thought for an England coach under time pressure

By Wynne Gray

Stuart Lancaster has four days to pick a squad for November. Photo / Getty Images
Stuart Lancaster has four days to pick a squad for November. Photo / Getty Images

Usually it is hard to sympathise with the England rugby side. They have playing resources and finances well beyond the imagination of their All Black counterparts.

However, the predicament facing coach Stuart Lancaster should draw some empathy from this side of the equator.

In four days, he should tell the Premiership clubs about players he wants for his test squad when England begin their schedule against the All Blacks on November 8.

That deal was signed off in 2008 when elite clubs demanded they be paid dividends from July 1 for every player signed up to the England squad. Lancaster has postponed his family holiday to try to reach a compromise.

If Steve Hansen was told he had to give four weeks' notice about his squad he would be howling at the moon, while Lancaster must give four months' warning. His plea for some leeway is being discussed as England eye strategies ahead of hosting next year's World Cup.

Victories did not come Lancaster's way this month, not on the field anyway. From a promising holding pattern with an alternate XV at Eden Park, England slipped further away from their targets as the All Blacks found greater chunks of accurate venom.

England were far more successful off the field. Lancaster was an amiable workaholic, determined to lead a group who engaged with the wider rugby community. Good behaviour was mandatory for the coach and his management and, on that count, they were several levels above their predecessors.

Lancaster wants three months selection flexibility instead of naming 33 players by next Tuesday's deadline.

"Leading to World Cup year, I am asking to be allowed to make informed selections closer to the autumn internationals as opposed to nailing my colours to the mast now," he told the Guardian. "We have certainly learned who can consistently deliver, both in a negative as well as a positive way.

"The November series is huge for us. Overall I think our attacking game has developed over the last 12 months but the All Blacks are still the benchmark for every international team.

"We need to go toe to toe with them at Twickenham."

- NZ Herald

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