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Leinster coach Lancaster tipped for The British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa 2021

October 1st, 2020Rugby

Lions head coach Warren Gatland revealed that he had been in a conversation with Dublin-based Stuart Lancaster, although the former England coach was swift to play down any suggestion that he had been offered a role.

However Lions legend Sean O’Brien, titanic flanker of Gatland’s two previous unbeaten tours, who was also coached by Lancaster at Leinster, believes he would be the “perfect” choice to join the Lions’ coaching team in South Africa next summer.

Now in his fourth season in Dublin, Lancaster has been fundamental in helping to mould Leinster into one of the most dominant club teams in world rugby. Having swapped a number one spot for that of a hands-on, tracksuited number two, after losing his dream head coach’s job with England, he appears much happier for it.

Sean O’Brien is undoubtedly a Stuart Lancaster fan, indicating in an interview with The Rugby Paper that Gatland should secure his services as soon as, based on that enormous success in Irish rugby:

“I think Stuart would be perfect on a tour like that.” 

“With his style and what he expects of players and the balance he has between work and being able to relax, he has an awful lot of knowledge and value to bring to that set-up.

“He’s very experienced now with what he’s done in the past few years and being back in coaching – doing what he loves – I just think it would be a great fit. Time will tell, I suppose, but he’s definitely someone who would add a lot to the Lions, there’s no doubt.”

When, as head coach of England, his team failed to progress from the Pool stage of a World Cup played on home turf triggering his dismissal in 2015, it was a rock bottom moment.  Lancaster, now 50, took a year off back then before moving to restore his career and reputation, which he has achieved in some style in Ireland.

Working alongside head coach Leo Cullen, he has helped navigate the Irish provincial club to back to back PRO14 titles as well as Champions Cup success.

O’Brien, now with London Irish and an eye on a third Lions tour, went on to tell the publication:

“As far as respect and trust for him [at Leinster] was concerned, we had that from the word go.

“It obviously grew over time and if you look back at the career of Stuart Lancaster, I think he was unlucky at that World Cup. He’d done everything before that; beaten the All Blacks etc and England were hard to beat at that stage.

“There was a lot of stuff said about him that was unfair, in my opinion, but when he came to us, he was very clear in what he wanted to do and very good at improving everyone and making them the best in their positions.

“It was really refreshing to have someone like that. If you weren’t doing what you’d been told to he’d hit you straight between the eyes with it, which is brilliant for any group of players.”

Obviously that well of accrued respect for Stuart Lancaster goes all the way up to Warren Gatland, even though he did beat Lancaster’s England three times in five outings with Wales, but crucially lost against an injury depleted English side at home in Cardiff with a side full of A-listers. Certainly that particular encounter evidenced a clear will to win and a coach who could motivate squad members to play out of their skins and change the outcome of a game from the bench.

With just over nine months to go and prodigious demand for Lions match tickets and tour packages, Lancaster’s appointment could well be imminent.