Lancaster steps down as England coach - RFU

 11 Nov 2015 - 17:00

Lancaster steps down as England coach - RFU

London: Stuart Lancaster has stepped down as England head coach by "mutual consent", England's Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday

Lancaster's departure, three-and-a-half years after his appointment, was expected in the light of England's disastrous World Cup campaign, which saw the team become the first host nation to be eliminated in the group phase.

"I am obviously extremely saddened to finish the way we did in this World Cup and to step down from the role," Lancaster said in a statement released by the RFU.

"As I have always said, I ultimately accept and take responsibility for the team's performance and we have not delivered the results we all hoped for during this tournament."

England's early exit prompted a still ongoing RFU review and Lancaster said: "I did, however, want to take part in the review to ensure I understood the views of others before making a decision. 

"The reality is that, while many aspects of the review were very positive, we didn't achieve success on the field when it mattered and we all have to take responsibility for that but me especially as head coach."

Lancaster, 46, led England to four successive second-place finishes in the Six Nations Championship without winning the title, although this year's World Cup was always his primary objective.

It proved a spectacular failure, with England crashing out following defeats by Wales and Australia, while Lancaster faced strong criticism for unsuccessful selection gambles such as his decision to place his faith in rugby league convert Sam Burgess.

But Lancaster, initially appointed on a caretaker basis after Martin Johnson quit following England's quarter-final exit at the 2011 World Cup before taking the job on full time in April 2012, said the future was bright for a largely youthful England side.

"I took on the role in difficult circumstances and it has been a huge challenge to transition the team with many hurdles along the way," explained Lancaster, who won 28 of his 46 Tests in charge.

Genuine contenders

"However, I am immensely proud of the development of this team and I know that there is an incredibly strong foundation for them to progress to great things in the future. 

"We have played some excellent rugby and it was always going to be tough to get the right level of experience into them in time for 2015. 

"It is a young group of players with the huge majority available for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, where I believe their recent experience will make them genuine contenders."

Right from the outset of his time as England coach there were questions as to whether he was the right man for the job, given the former Leeds rugby director and England Saxons (the national A side) boss's lack of experience with a top-flight club or international side. 

"The Rugby World Cup was hugely disappointing for everyone associated with the England team and the subsequent review into the team's performance was always intended to be extremely comprehensive, which it has been," said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie.

"Stuart has been fully involved and has given feedback as well as the other coaches, players, management and a wide variety of people from around the game.

"Following the review, Stuart and I met, where we agreed that he should step down as head coach."

Ritchie will now lead the search for Lancaster's successor, which the RFU said would begin "immediately".

However, Ritchie's position is bound to be called into question given he both appointed Lancaster and last year gave the coach and his backroom staff six-year contract extensions taking them beyond the 2019 World Cup.

The RFU statement made no mention of assistant coaches Graham Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt, who all now face an uncertain future.

Ritchie and RFU chairman Bill Beaumont are due to hold a Twickenham press conference at 1630 GMT Wednesday.