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Lancaster is the best man for the job

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As England's caretaker, Stuart Lancaster did exactly as he was asked, and he is now reaping the considerable reward.

He repaired the damage of the World Cup, he blooded a new generation of players, and he won four matches out of five. It has proved a convincing audition.

We will learn more about Lancaster's backroom staff in the coming days, but we know that he wants to retain the assistants that worked with him in the Six Nations Championship. Graham Rowntree is a stone-cold certainty as forwards coach.

My information is that Andy Farrell can be persuaded to join England on a permanent basis too, though he will need to secure a release from his contract at Saracens.

Decision time looms for England

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The new Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie told reporters last week: “I don’t do complex. I only do simple.” In which case, the selection of England’s next full-time head coach could prove a testing one.

At its most basic, the search is about finding the right man for a very important job. But we all know that the appointment is not as straightforward as that.

Let’s look at the candidates, or at least those we know to be on the shortlist. There is the interim head coach Stuart Lancaster, former South Africa, Italy and Stade Francais coach Nick Mallett and Jake White, the man who led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007. 

Devoted Wilkinson was a unique talent

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So it's goodbye Jonny. English rugby is much the poorer for his departure but the time had come and the time was right.

The new coaching team of Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell need to focus on the next World Cup in 2015 and finding the next Jonny Wilkinson. The search will not be easy. Wilkinson is a once-in-a-generation player.

He will forever be remembered for the drop goal - off his wrong foot - that brought England their first World Cup that famous November night in Sydney 2003. But he offered his country so much more than just a great kicking game.

Lancaster is a welcome breath of fresh air

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There was a very different feel to Twickenham on Thursday. There were smiles, there was laughter, there was genuine warmth between England's new coaching staff and members of the media. It was a most welcome change.

Levity has been in short supply at the Rugby Football Union recently. So too, integrity and straight talking - which made Stuart Lancaster's arrival at the top table all the more significant. England's new interim head coach was courteous, engaging, passionate and organised.

He came across as highly motivated, and fully across his brief. Time - and results - will reveal whether he is up to the job.

Lancaster has been parachuted into the role to breathe life back into English rugby. He spoke of the need to select players not only of talent, but of character; of the need "to be the best, and beat the best". He talked tough on discipline. "Behaviour shapes performance," he said.

Trouble at the top for RFU

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Eight years ago, almost to the day, Martin Johnson was feted as the sole English captain to lift the World Cup trophy.

On Wednesday, he shuffled sadly out of Twickenham, weighed down by the burdens of management, apparently unclear about his motives for resigning.

Perhaps he was aware that if he did not jump, he would be pushed.

Certainly he knew his coaching staff would be changed, and that the Rugby Football Union hierarchy remained a jumbled confusion.

There was little support from the man sat by his side at Wednesday’s news conference, his former line manager Rob Andrew.

Tindall pays for World Cup misdemeanours

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Mike Tindall's international career appears to be over following his sudden removal from England's elite player squad. He will not be taking part in the forthcoming Six Nations Championship, which begins in February, nor the tour to South Africa later in the year.

Perhaps the 33-year-old centre would not have been selected anyway. Still, it is a sorry way for a World Cup winner - seemingly - to bow out of international rugby.

Tindall has only himself to blame. A few drinks would have proved harmless but his infamous evening out in Queenstown during the first few days of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand involved rather more than that.

The player's subsequent confusion in explaining his whereabouts did not help his cause, while England manager Martin Johnson was made to look foolish as he faced the media in the aftermath.

End of Thomas signals a fresh start

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After a stormy few months at Twickenham, the departure of Martyn Thomas represents a lifting of the clouds.

Ignore the official statement about "spending more time with the family", and the reference to the end of his contract. Thomas was forced out by the Rugby Football Union 12-man management board of which he was a part. Without doubt, they were under huge pressure from the clubs to remove him at the earliest opportunity.

He will remain in place until 16 December, by which date a new chief executive will have been appointed. The current chief financial officer Stephen Brown will step in as the interim CEO, until the new person takes charge.

Thomas will also relinquish his other high profile roles, as the RFU representative on the International Rugby Board, the Six Nations Committee, and the board of European Rugby Cup.

Most significantly of all, he will lose his post as the chairman of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, to be held in England. Thomas had worked hard to secure the hosting rights for the RFU. It will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.

England's World Cup debacle rages on

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It is 10 days since the World Cup ended and almost a month since England's ignominious exit to France at the quarter-final stage in Auckland.

Yet we are still no closer to knowing what is happening about the future of the England coaching set-up or the future of the hierarchy at the Rugby Football Union.

The RFU loves nothing better than a "robust review", even if it means pouring scorn on it once it is published. That's exactly what acting chief executive Martyn Thomas did after commissioning a report by Judge Jeff Blackett into the botched hiring and firing of former chief executive John Steele and the non-recruitment of a performance director (more on that later).

There are no less than six RFU reviews taking place at the moment. Three relate to rugby and three to discipline or standards of corporate governance.

All Black's legend Sir Brian Lochore senses a repeat of 1987

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Twenty-four years ago the man who shepherded New Zealand’s rugby team to World Cup triumph was Brian Lochore.

Now Sir Brian, he still cuts an imposing but friendly figure at 71. He is a bear of a man, his huge paws enveloping my own in a handshake.

His eyes have retreated a little with age but they are illuminated by a ready smile.

Sir Brian is a legend in New Zealand. As both a number eight and lock forward, he won 25 international caps for his country between 1964 and 1971. He was captain of the All Blacks for 18 of those Tests.

New Welsh crop ready to create own history

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Alan “Thumper” Phillips is looking rather confused.

The Wales team manager has a slightly crumpled forehead and a wry grin plays across his mouth, as he surveys the chaotic scene at their hotel in central Auckland.

The world’s press has gathered in one of the smaller conference rooms, waiting for any useful nugget of news ahead of arguably the biggest game in Wales’ history.

The World Cup semi-final against France is occupying every waking hour of his life. Men and women crane their necks over the phalanx of camera crews and journalists, searching for a view of the Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards.

“Look at that media scrum,” says Phillips, scratching his head. “It really is a completely different game now."

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