'We've come light years in a short time'

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree says Stuart Lancaster's stint as interim coach has dragged England 'out of the gutter'.

    (L-R) Forwards coach Rowntree celebrates with Lancaster after England's win over Ireland [GALLO/GETTY]

    Interim national rugby coach Stuart Lancaster has "dragged England out of the gutter" and should be given the job on a permanent basis, his assistant Graham Rowntree said on Tuesday.

    Lancaster will be interviewed for the full-time role this week having led England to second place in the Six Nations championship with four wins, including three on the road.

    His chief rival appears to be former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett but scrum coach Rowntree said Lancaster had already done enough to secure the job, not least in restoring the team's morale and reputation after the depressing World Cup last year.

    "Stuart has dragged us out of the gutter and deserves all the credit he is going to get," Rowntree told reporters at a Six Nations debrief at Twickenham.

    "We failed (at the World Cup) and the whole leaked-reports business was messy. That was only a few weeks ago but we've come light years in a short time." 

    Re-building reputation

    England returned from the World Cup with their reputation shattered after a series of unedifying incidents off the pitch
    and some uninspired performances on it, culminating in a quarter-final defeat by Italy.

    A series of "confidential" reports were then leaked to the media, exposing internal divisions and a lack of faith in the
    coaching team led by Martin Johnson, who resigned soon afterwards.

    "A lot has been said about the (new) environment and the players have genuinely bought into that and delivered. They've created that environment on the back of Stuart's culture," Rowntree said.

    "You can't argue with what he's done, culturally, performance-wise, the improvements that have come every week; you just can't argue with that as the perfect interview"

    Graham Rowntree

    "It's been fantastic. It's the best I've known as a player and coach. It was better even than the (British and Irish) Lions because we were in such a low place," said Rowntree, the only coaching survivor from England's World Cup campaign and a former player and coach with the Lions.

    Rowntree said that there had been a "cracking night" to celebrate Saturday's impressive 30-9 home victory over Ireland but that it had been "tinged with real sadness."

    "We all felt as coaches and players an emotional journey was coming to an end and I've never experienced that before as usually you are ready for home," he said.

    "Right from the outset, even by the end of the Leeds camp it felt as if we had something special going and then it just grew and grew and for Stuart to achieve that so quickly is special.

    "You can't argue with what he's done, culturally, performance-wise, the improvements that have come every week; you just can't argue with that as the perfect interview."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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