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Former RFU director Rob Andrew heaps World Cup blame on Lancaster in his new book

Andrew claims Lancaster was ‘dictatorial’ in the build-up to the tournament.

Andrew is currently chief executive with Sussex county cricket.
Andrew is currently chief executive with Sussex county cricket.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

THE RFU’S FORMER director of professional rugby Rob Andrew has shovelled the  blame for England’s 2015 World Cup onto Stuart Lancaster and his handling of Sam Burgess.

As tournament hosts, England fell to defeat against Wales and Australia as they failed to escape the pool stages. Burgess, whose presence in union had been a major bone of contention for the year leading up to the tournament, was subsequently freed from his three-year contract so that he could return to play rugby league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Two years on, in an extract from his book — ‘The Game of My Life: battling for England in the professional era’, published by The Telegraph – Andrew claims that the Leinster senior coach became ‘dictatorial’ in his final year in charge with England and insists he can’t understand how or why Burgess was fast-tracked into the international setup.

“Stuart Lancaster and (current Ireland defence coach) Andy Farrell have always defended their position on this, but as far as I’m concerned they can say what they like: Burgess was a rogue ingredient in the mix,” writes Andrew, who has since been appointed chief executive with Sussex County Cricket Club.

“All head coaches are control freaks in their own ways, especially around the matches and tournaments they know will define them, and Stuart became pretty dictatorial in the way he ran the show in 2015.

The Burgess business revealed him at his most obsessive: he was clearly not happy with his options at No 12 and had made up his mind that Sam offered him the nearest thing to a way out, despite the reservations of those who had not seen anything from him at club level with Bath to suggest that he was even remotely up to speed with the realities of midfield play at Test level.”

The closest Andrew comes to any sort of criticism of his own role comes as he laments All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith’s decision to continue working with New Zealand rather than accept an offer to come to England. Andrew then goes on to imagine an alternative reality in which Smith was part of the setup with Lancaster.

Stuart Lancaster Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“What might we have achieved had Wayne decided differently and brought all his experience and perspective to bear on the England environment? It’s hard to say with any certainty, but he would surely have saved Stuart and the rest of the coaches from themselves during the run-in to the big event, when the good habits and sound management of the previous three years appeared to evaporate… the heat and intensity of a World Cup on English soil undoubtedly had its effect on Stuart, who flew directly in the face of his own good judgment at important moments and ended up paying a heavy price. With Wayne there to support him, things might have turned out differently.”

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