Stuart Lancaster to take England reins for Six Nations

Stuart Lancaster will head up England's coaching team on an interim basis for the 2012 Six Nations.

Lancaster will be supported by current England scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree and Saracens first-team coach Andy Farrell.

England are still searching for a full-time coach after Martin Johnson quit as manager in the wake of a disappointing World Cup.

Lancaster, 42, said his sole focus was on the Six Nations and no further.

Asked whether he would like the post permanently, Lancaster said his role "would end at some point in the future".

Pride needs to be rebuilt - Rowntree

"From my point of view my focus is on tomorrow and actually getting the thoughts of the other guys [coaches], getting the team together and planning the January camp," he said.

"It is absolutely crucial in terms of turning round and improving the culture. The World Cup was unfortunate in some ways and we need to make sure the focus is on getting ready for Scotland."

Lancaster said it was with a "sense of responsibility" that he took on the role. "It's something as a player I always dreamed of and something as a coach I never dreamed of," he added.

"To get the opportunity to sit here as the England head coach is an unbelievable opportunity and I'm very privileged to be here."

Johnson quit as manager after England's World Cup campaign was dogged by controversy and ended with defeat to France in the quarter-finals.

Analysis

In Stuart Lancaster, the RFU have chosen the pragmatic option as England's interim head coach. He has a priceless knowledge of the younger players, he will gain valuable experience of the top job, and, in Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell, he has committed and talented men alongside him. Without wishing to belittle Lancaster's achievements thus far, he will also stand aside without fuss at the end of the Six Nations. This allows the powers-that-be to scour the globe for a permanent head coach. If the RFU had appointed a higher profile caretaker such as John Kirwan, the RFU might have been in a tangle at the end of the Championship. Lancaster is well-regarded by the players, full of fresh ideas and powerfully motivated to impress on a short-term basis. A decent showing from England this spring will do his longer term career prospects no end of good. For him, it is a win-win situation.

Former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett and Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder are believed to be among the front-runners for the job on a permanent basis, while former New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith is also a candidate for a role in the new set-up.

Confirmation of the new interim team - Rowntree will concentrate on the forwards, Farrell the backs and defence, while Lancaster will lead attacking sessions himself - means that Rowntree is the only member of Johnson's previous coaching cabal to survive.

Attack coach Brian Smith opted not to seek a renewal of his contract, while forwards coach John Wells and defence coach Mike Ford, who both came in for criticism in leaked reports into England's World Cup campaign, are in discussions with the RFU over the end of their contracts.

Earlier in the week, the RFU said a caretaker coach could be appointed to a full-time post if he impresses in the Six Nations.

Lancaster, who coached an England XV against Barbarians in June, was appointed the RFU's head of elite player development in 2008 and has been in charge of the second-string Saxons during the same period, guiding them to nine wins in 10 matches.

He had been director of rugby at Leeds, replacing Phil Davies in May 2006 after spending five years in charge of the club's academy.

Rowntree was appointed scrummaging coach by Johnson in August 2008, and was handed the same role with the British and Irish Lions for the 2009 tour to South Africa.

Former Leicester prop Rowntree spent his entire playing career with the Tigers, from 1990 to 2007, winning 54 England caps and securing two Grand Slams as a player.

Former Wigan rugby league player Farrell turned to union in 2005 before taking up a coaching role with Saracens. He was promoted to first-team coach in 2010.

"All three of us are really excited about the opportunity ahead," said Lancaster. "Andrew [Farrell] has done an outstanding job at Saracens and the Saxons; Graham has enormous respect from the players and has vast experience and I am confident that we can work well together as a coaching team.

ENGLAND COACHES

  • Martin Johnson (Jul 08-Nov 11) Tests: 38, Win %: 55.26.
  • Rob Andrew (Jun 08) Tests: 2, Win %: 0.
  • Brian Ashton (Dec 06-Jun 08) Tests: 22, Win %: 54.5.
  • Andy Robinson (Oct 04-Nov 06) Tests: 22, Win %: 40.9.
  • Clive Woodward (Nov 97-Sep 04) Tests: 83, Win %: 71.1.

"The World Cup was enormously disappointing but we shouldn't forget that England won 10 out of 13 games this year and a Six Nations title. We have a promising group of players to go forward with and the challenge for Graham, Andy and myself is to get the best out of them.

"I've got my views on where elite teams are made. We want players who are hungry and ambitious, with responsibility and pride in representing the rose."

England open their Six Nations campaign in a little over eight weeks against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, 4 February. They then face Italy in Rome the following Saturday before a home game against Wales on 25 February.

RFU acting chief executive Stephen Brown said: "Stuart is not only an experienced coach but his role as head of elite player development puts him at the forefront of producing international players.

"We believe this coaching team is the right one to collectively take England forward in the short term."