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'The priority is to be a great club coach': Lancaster on easy decision to stay at Leinster

The Englishman has targeted more success with the province after signing on for another two seasons.

STUART LANCASTER SAYS he was firm in his mind when making a decision over his future after signing a new contract to remain as Leinster senior coach for the next two seasons. 

Both Lancaster and head coach Leo Cullen re-signed with the defending European and Pro14 champions last week in a major boost for Leinster as they bid to build on their recent success.

Stuart Lancaster Stuart Lancaster pictured at UCD this afternoon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

While the duration of Lancaster’s new deal was not disclosed, the 49-year-old confirmed he has agreed terms to remain at the club until 2021, in what is an excellent piece of business by Leinster. 

Lancaster had been heavily linked with a role on Andy Farrell’s Ireland coaching team after the World Cup, but made the ‘easy decision’ to stay with Leinster after rehabilitating his own career in Dublin and helping the province to a fourth Champions Cup crown in 2018.

The former England head coach’s stock has risen immeasurably during his three years at Leinster, and speaking to The42 this afternoon, Lancaster explained that his hands-on role and day-to-day responsibility within Cullen’s coaching ticket was a significant factor in him committing his future to the province.

“It was pretty easy, really,” he told The42. “I think I’ve said from the outset that I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to come to such a top club after coaching England.

Currently, we’re the European champions and we’ve got a whole raft of talented players who you’re coaching on a day-to-day basis. Not only Ireland players, but aspiring Ireland players and players who want to play at the highest level.

“I’ve got the remit to look after attack and defence, coaching on a day-to-day basis so from a coaching point of view, it’s a brilliant environment to be in. 

“The big consideration for all these things are your family as much as anything else. It has worked well, the commute has been a challenge but it’s doable. My wife and kids are happy in that they can come across whenever they want and I can go home and see them. 

“It was quite an easy decision to make and obviously with Leo staying as well, it means that we can continue to work together and build on what we’ve achieved so far.”

On the speculation linking him with a move back into international rugby with Ireland, Lancaster explained: ”I speak to Andy all the time. I spoke to him during the Six Nations and we will catch up soon. But for me, the priority is to be a great club coach.   

“I was firm in my mind that I wanted to stay here. I mean obviously, Andy has got the challenge now of building his own coaching team. I’m sure he’ll build it over the course of the next four to six months.

“The reality is he needs it in place for January 2020. I’m sure he’ll do that but I’ve said consistently, I enjoy the day-to-day stuff here. I enjoy club coaching and I’m very lucky to be at a great club.” 

Stuart Lancaster Lancaster enjoys the day-to-day responsibilities of his role at Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With his signature very much in demand elsewhere, retaining the services of Lancaster is a massive coup for Leinster and CEO Mick Dawson heading into the next two seasons. 

Working in tandem, Cullen and Lancaster have formed an excellent relationship, guiding Leinster back to the summit of European rugby while claiming a first-ever double last season. 

After his reign in charge of England ended in disastrous circumstances following the 2015 World Cup, Lancaster has rebuilt his reputation in Dublin and has been consistently linked with vacancies back in the English Premiership. 

That he has ignored interest from home to remain in position at Leinster is a major endorsement for the structures in place at the club and the long-term vision Lancaster has for the province.

“To keep developing the team and the group to play consistently well,” Lancaster says of his hopes for the next two seasons. “That’s the ultimate goal as a coach. You want to build great teams, you want to help individuals achieve success.

“We want to fight on two fronts every year, both in Europe and in the Pro14, and in the fortunate position this year where we are able to do that. We’ve played well in the league and had a lot of games this season without the players who play for Ireland, and the team have still delivered in the Pro14.

We’ve got a home quarter-final in Europe and we’ve a huge challenge coming down the tracks in a week and a half. It’s where we want to be and where I want to be but ultimately you want to win things as well and I do believe having come to Leinster, we have the squad and the coaches to win things. And that’s a big motivation for me.

By the time Lancaster’s new deal runs out in 2021, he will have been at Leinster for five seasons. 

He added: “When I first arrived I could see the potential from before I arrived. I saw more than enough in the team to believe success could be built.

“When you’re doing the maths, in another couple of years, five years is quite a long time actually. I coached England for four years and in my mind, I wanted to do it for eight, but it didn’t happen that way.

“Five years, when you look back, it feels like a long time but in coaching terms, I still feel there’s an awful lot we can still do to improve.”

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Ryan Bailey

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