LONDON: Stuart Lancaster’s prospects of securing the role of permanent England coach do not depend on results in the remaining two Six Nations championship fixtures, the Rugby Football Union’s new CEO Ian Ritchie said Thursday.
Lancaster, currently caretaker coach after the resignation of Martin Johnson, was in charge during away wins over Scotland and Italy in his first two games before his team lost to Wales at Twickenham last Saturday. England visit France on March 11 and sign off the defense of their title at home to Ireland on March 17.
He is the only candidate whose application has been confirmed, but Ritchie, who began his new role Monday, said there was a strong short list, which has been reported to include former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett, former Japan coach John Kirwan and former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan.
“We are going to see Stuart while the Six Nations is under way,” Ritchie told reporters at a Twickenham briefing.
“I appreciate it puts more pressure on him because he has the day job to be getting on with but it is helpful to be able to do that so we can move the process on.”
Ritchie said he hoped to have the new man in place ahead of England’s June tour of South Africa but added he would be prepared to wait until as late as October if that was necessary to secure the right man.
He also made it clear that the appointment would be “a comparison” between candidates and would not be decided on Lancaster’s Six Nations record.
He did, however, say how impressed he had been with the former Saxons coach’s impact on the squad following the disappointing World Cup display on and off the pitch last year.
Lancaster has brought in a raft of new faces and worked hard to impose a new approach to discipline amid a determined push to restore a “pride in the shirt” and has become popular with fans and the media.
“I think Stuart has done a fantastic job,” Ritchie said. “He was in a very difficult position but has done a lot of the things that we would all agree are the right things to have been done. If you talk to him, he’s an impressive person.
“What Stuart has undoubtedly done is, by the strength of what he’s achieved, put himself on the list. But how does he compare with other people on the list? Selection is all about comparisons,” he said.
Ritchie said that he had set up a four-man advisory panel to help with the selection, comprising former Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan, Harlequins’ director of rugby and former Ireland fullback Conor O’Shea, former England flanker Richard Hill and the RFU’s head of elite rugby Rob Andrew.
Ritchie, a former lawyer who moved to the RFU to replace John Steele after more than six years in charge of the Wimbledon tennis championships, stressed though that he would make the final recommendation to the RFU board.