Swanny’s World of Sport - Lancaster has bombed as a coach

England head coach Stuart Lancaster.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster.
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To be fair to England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster, he’s only had 41 internationals and four years to work out his best team for the forthcoming World Cup.

Maybe the fact that in 2014 the Rugby Football Union decided to extend his contract to 2020 instilled complacency rather than ambition into a man who was an anonymous figure to the layman until landing the big job in 2011.

It beggars belief that Lancster’s final selection for the World Cup was apparently determined by a full-scale private practice match two days before he revealed his hand.

The result, unsurprisingly, is a selection that is both baffling and worrying.

England are heading to the World Cup with two centres with two caps between them and the signs are that the pair that take the field on opening night against Fiji - Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph - are playing together for the first time this weekend. What happens if they are rubbish?

Sam Burgess is one rival for a place in the centre. If this was a Rugby League World Cup, Burgess would be a shoo-in, but he’s been a union player for five minutes - four of which were spent playing as a flanker.

Some are calling the selection of Burgess ‘brave’ which is obvious nonsense. Picking someone likely to be a barely-used substitute is not brave, but selecting someone who might come off the bench and turn a game with skill and original thinking, like say Danny Cipriani, now that would have been brave, and imaginative.

But Lancaster doesn’t do imaginative.

Of course none of this would matter if England had an easy pool. Qualification for the quarter-finals would have been a breeze if the hosts had been given the stroll in the park afforded to New Zealand.

Instead England have what sports commentators like to call ‘a group of death’ with one of England, Wales or Australia falling by the wayside at the same time as Uruguay.

Again this wouldn’t have been too important if England had replaced Martin Johnson with a more innovative coach.

Instead Lancaster was promoted from obscurity and then handed a ridiculously long contract after winning the Six Nations and beating New Zealand.

Tellingly he hasn’t managed either since and England are now ranked as low as sixth in the world, in a sport that only has five good teams.

As the Six Nations is League Two compared to the Premier League standard of the Southern Hemisphere’s annual international competition, it bothers me greatly that we never win it, especially as I still break out into a cold sweat when recalling England failing to cope with the hoof it tactics of Ireland last winter.

Other countries have been planning to peak in the next couple of months and they probably will. Australia even beat hot favourites New Zealand the other week.

I think Lancaster is planning to peak at the next world cup in Japan in 2019.