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All of a sudden England's coach has morphed into Eddie O'Sullivan

Just like the former Ireland boss, Stuart Lancaster has made a habit of finishing runners up.

The pressure is on Lancaster to deliver at the World Cup after yet another second place finish in the Six Nations.
The pressure is on Lancaster to deliver at the World Cup after yet another second place finish in the Six Nations.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

UNDER EDDIE O’SULLIVAN Ireland graduated from an inconsistent side capable of an occasional one-off performance to a well-drilled unit who routinely beat some of the world’s best teams.

Between 2003 and 2007, the Irish team played some of the best rugby of the Six Nations era but always came up short.

In ’03, they won their first four games before getting walloped by England in a Grand Slam decider at Lansdowne Road.

In 2004, they recovered from an opening day loss to France to win their remaining four fixtures.

2005 saw them start three from three before tailing off with defeats to France and Wales.

And in ’06 and ’07, France were all that stood between Ireland and a Grand Slam.

Five campaigns and four second place finishes is remarkable consistency, but not in a good way.

Eddie was able to take the team to the precipice of greatness but couldn’t get them over the hump.

Stuart Lancaster would probably sympathise with O’Sullivan’s plight.

Lancaster took over when England were in a low enough place after the drunken dwarf throwing antics that the team took part in during a disappointing World Cup (although they had just won a Six Nations, so it was a good job to walk into).

Lancaster, along with his able coaching ticket of Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree, brought a bit of humility to the side and stressed work ethic and team spirit.

As well as that, the team have tried to play attacking rugby for the majority of his tenure and it has translated into wins. He has presided over four Six Nations campaigns and recorded four wins each season.

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But like Ireland’s old coach, Lancaster hasn’t been able to win that elusive championship and for all the positive PR he has gotten since coming into the job, Martin Johnson’s band of entitled chaps won more medals.

The manner of their capitulations have been particularly tough to take if you are an English fan. Whereas only one of Ireland’s near misses could be described as truly excruciating, all of England’s brushes with the championship have finished with a kick in the testicles.

In year one, Scott Williams smashed Courtney Lawes in midfield, stripped the ball, sprinted past the cover and gathered his own kick with five minutes left. And then the home side were denied an equalising try by the TMO at the death.

Source: ShaneWilliamsHitler/YouTube

In 2013, England played a Grand Slam decider in Cardiff knowing even a six-point defeat would hand them the championship. But Justin Tipuric turned into a gazelle and started doing Justin Tipuric things.

Source: RBS 6 Nations/YouTube

Last year, you had THAT photo as Ireland held on in Paris.

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And this year they scored 55 in London but ultimately a poor showing in Dublin cost them.

England have been the most consistent Six Nations team in this World Cup period and are the only northern hemisphere side to beat the All Blacks during that time. But under Lancaster, they are prone to laying one egg per championship.

The poor guy looked close to tears as he descended from the coaches box last night and you couldn’t blame him. Eddie O’Sullivan probably recognised the feeling immediately.

There is still the small matter of a home World Cup to round off Lancaster’s first four-year period. O’Sullivan couldn’t kick on at the tournament, but perhaps this autumn will be the time when England are finally able to put the entire package together.

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