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Leinster bracing for loss of Lancaster as Top 14 side Racing swoop

The Englishman has been with the Irish province since 2016.

Lancaster could leave Leinster next summer.
Lancaster could leave Leinster next summer.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

LEINSTER ARE BRACING themselves for major upheaval with Stuart Lancaster close to agreeing on a move to French club Racing 92 next summer.

Lancaster has been Leinster’s senior coach since 2016 and has had a huge impact on Irish rugby with his coaching of the province’s players, many of whom also star for the Ireland national team.

However, Lancaster is now thought to be on the verge of finalising a deal with Racing. As reported by Midi Olympique in France earlier this week, the Top 14 side have made a strong move to secure Lancaster’s services from next season onwards and talks have made “considerable progress.”

The Englishman’s current Leinster deal expires in June 2023 and while there had been an expectation that the province would move earlier to extend that contract, it now appears that Lancaster could be tempted away from Ireland.

Current Racing director of rugby Laurent Travers is set to take up a new role higher up in the club next summer, meaning the Parisians have been on the lookout for his successor.

52-year-old Lancaster would be a prime choice at any club given his track record. Although he was sacked by the RFU after England exited their home 2015 World Cup at the pool stages, Lancaster had done excellent work in the years leading up to that tournament.

He has furthered his reputation at Leinster, with the province’s players delivering consistently glowing reports about Lancaster’s work on the training pitch and in the classroom with his focus on leadership.

It’s clear that Leinster’s squad will be extremely disappointed if Lancaster’s exit at the end of the season is confirmed.

The situation also creates an immediate challenge for new CEO Shane Nolan, who replaced the long-serving Mick Dawson after he retired at the end of last season.

There has been plenty of change within the Leinster coaching ranks recently, with assistants Felipe Contepomi and Denis Leamy leaving for Argentina and Munster, respectively, at the end of the 2021/22 campaign. Former Leinster back row Sean O’Brien and highly-rated Kiwi attack specialist Andrew Goodman have joined in their place.

Goodman could even be considered for a more influential role if Lancaster’s exit is confirmed. Having previously been the head coach of Tasman and an assistant coach with the Crusaders in his native New Zealand, he has built a fine reputation.

Leinster legend Johnny Sexton is close to retirement from playing and has indicated in the past that he has interest in coaching. It would be no shock to see him remaining involved in some capacity even after hanging up his boots.

There would also be huge interest in any role with Leinster from outside the province, given their consistent success in the URC. One frustration Lancaster may have is that the province has won just one European title during his tenure despite the strength of their squad, but there is another season ahead in which to improve that record.

Of course, Leo Cullen is still the Leinster head coach, even if his role has involved less on-pitch coaching with Lancaster around. The Englishman currently runs the Leinster attack and defence, as well as having an influence on many other areas of their preparation.

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Cullen has had a policy of signing short-term deals with Leinster and he too is currently set to be out of contract in the summer of 2023. The province will be hopeful of hanging onto the 44-year-old.

It remains to be seen if Cullen would assume more coaching responsibility were Lancaster to leave, or if he would formally move into a director of rugby role upon signing a new contract.

Either way, losing Lancaster would undoubtedly be a huge blow for Leinster.

Cullen is due to speak to the media at 1pm this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s URC clash with Benetton and there’s no doubt that much of the focus will be on Lancaster’s future. 

- Originally published at 09.42

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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