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Lancaster to coach England in rugby Six Nations

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Stuart Lancaster will be England’s caretaker during their defence of the Six Nations title, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced here on Thursday.

Lancaster, currently coach of the reserve England Saxons, will be supported by Graham Rowntree, presently England’s scrum coach, and former England international Andy Farrell, who has been seconded from the staff of Premiership side Saracens.

The RFU have given themselves until England’s tour of South Africa in June to find a permanent successor to Martin Johnson, who resigned following an embarrassing campaign at the recent World Cup in New Zealand.

England failed to reach their minimum goal of a semi-final spot, losing to France in the last eight, and lacklustre displays on the field were compounded by several unsavoury off-field incidents, including centre Mike Tindall’s alcohol-fuelled night out with several other players in Queenstown.

“All three of us are really excited about the opportunity ahead,” said Lancaster in a RFU statement.

“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.

“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,” he added.

“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,” the 42-year-old former Leeds flanker, uncapped by England, added.

RFU acting chief executive Stephen Brown said: “We believe this coaching team is the right one to collectively take England forward in the short term.”

Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup winning captain, quit after the squad’s return and before a series of internal reports, all leaked to The Times newspaper, painted a picture of an ill-disciplined squad lacking the necessary leadership and tactical input from the coaching staff.

Attack coach Brian Smith also stood down while Thursday’s announcement suggested defence coach Mike Ford and forwards coach John Wells were both no longer part of the England set-up.

Former Test prop Rowntree, though, was one of the few members of the backroom team who emerged with credit from the reports.

RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew, unlike Johnson, refused to quit, although the ex England fly-half was subsequently shunted into a new role of professional rugby director without any responsibility for the England team.

But, controversially, Andrew remains involved in the selection process to choose Johnson’s successor.

Former South Africa and Italy boss Nick Mallett, one of the leading contenders, said he’d want to report directly to the chief executive and the board, not a director of rugby.

Neither Mallett, nor former New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith, who has also been linked with the England job after helping the All Blacks win this year’s World Cup, are currently in a position to take on the role.

England’s first match of the 2012 Six Nations is away to old rivals Scotland on February 4.

Signature : Julian Guyer LONDON (AFP)

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