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Confidence, rather than 'Leinster style' the key difference for Ireland in 2019, says Lancaster

Leinster’s senior coach was drawn into the autopsy of Ireland’s disappointing year by Isa Nacewa and Brian O’Driscoll.

STUART LANCASTER BECAME something of an innocent bystander amid the cross-fire of Ireland’s post-World Cup angst.

Four years on from being handed a can to carry for England’s pool exit, the success of Leinster and their senior coach was last month presented by ex-stalwarts as a potential explanation for Ireland’s severe dip in form from an all-conquering 2018 to a disappointing 2019.

The Yorkshire man admits he struggled to follow Brian O’Driscoll’s ‘train of thought’ as the former Ireland captain posited such a theory. Isa Nacewa, however, was the first to raise the issue, saying that Lancaster’s unstructured style had ‘infiltrated’ Ireland’s gameplan before Joe Schmidt tightened the reins for 2019.

jonathan-sexton-james-ryan-and-tadhg-furlong-dejected Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan and Johnny Sexton will all be central figures for Leinster again this season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Mileage with that view will largely depend on how expansive you remember Ireland’s attack actually being during the Grand Slam, tour of Australia and November win over the All Blacks.

Lancaster railed at his methods being distilled down to simply ‘comfort in chaos’, outlining the frameworks necessary to create ‘chaotic’ training sessions. He puts a lot of thought into his attack’s approach and didn’t seem to see his own fingerprints on Ireland.

“Ireland clearly played very good rugby in 2018 because they won the Grand Slam and they beat the All Blacks,” Lancaster said yesterday.

“All the games they won were on the back of a high-quality set-piece and great starter plays. They scored against New Zealand with a starter play didn’t they?

“They were just playing good rugby. All the players were in good form. There was confidence and belief in what they were doing. There was clarity and they delivered big moments under pressure.

He adds: “They were just confident in their form. And perhaps in 2019 perhaps they were just less so.

stuart-lancaster Lancaster speaking in UCD yesterday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I wasn’t there so it’s hard to know the reasons why. So the one thing I do learn or have learned from coaching international rugby, it is difficult. You are up against the best teams, the best players from all the countries in a World Cup where they’ve all had an extended period of time together that they don’t normally get. So even the sort of Tier two countries become more equipped and organised to play against, and difficult to beat.”

Lancaster is speaking as an outsider to Ireland camp, but having worked closely with Andy Farrell on England duty he sincerely hopes to see a rebound in form come the Six Nations.

For that, and sustainable progress beyond it, to happen Lancaster says: “you have to have a really clear review process to look at all the reasons why maybe you didn’t win a game…

Knowing Andy as I do, and knowing Joe as I do to be honest, I’d be amazed if they’re not having a really detailed, forensic review to look at what they can do better.”

There is certainly a very strong argument that Lancaster is an even better coach now than he was when he coached at international level. A tough review after England’s unthinkable pool exit undoubtedly helped him bounce back towards European success.

“We sat down and you review your selection decisions, you review your camp, you review the training you did in the camp, the warm up games, you review the logistics, the medical, the S&C, everything needs to be reviewed… you do it because you want to get better.”

Lancaster adds: 

“I know there’s been a lot of noise about Ireland not doing well, but we shouldn’t forget how much Joe has done for Ireland, in my opinion. When I arrived here, the fingerprints of Joe were all over this organisation in a really positive way, and they’re still there now.

“I hope they take the learning from it. I hope they do it in a very constructive way and I hope it benefits the new coaching team.

“Because I for one will be giving them everything I possibly can to help them succeed.”

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Sean Farrell

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