Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Manu's Transformation Sums Up Why RFU Have Finally Got It Right

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Manu's Transformation Sums Up Why RFU Have Finally Got It Right

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones

[bar] OMETHING strange just happened. The RFU made a good decision. It took a while, yes, and there was a degree of superfluous shilly-shallying. But in appointing Stuart Lancaster as permanent England coach, they have halted a decade of dumb decisions about the position, finally shaking off the burdensome legacy of 2003's World Cup win and taking a positive early step towards the home tournament in 2015. Things are looking up.

Lancaster deserves his job. This is not the RFU ducking a decision or sticking hopefully with the man whose pants are presently in the seat. Nick Mallett, an experienced, available and enthusiastic coach, has been passed over.

Lancaster earned his post after the toughest interview process of all: taking a team nothing short of an embarrassment, clearing out the deadbeats and has-beens, picking the right players and getting them to play exciting rugby.

He has taken two big scalps -- mugging France in Paris and trousering a whacked-out Ireland at home. Although England were beaten at Twickenham by the best Welsh side since the 1970s, they pushed Wales all the way and went into the final weekend of the Six Nations with a slim chance of winning the championship.

Better still is the character of the young men Lancaster has picked and the team spirit he has created. He has fast-tracked a new axis of talent in Owen Farrell, Ben Morgan and Lancaster's captain, Chris Robshaw. Older, apparently forgotten players have been brought back to life: Tom Croft and David Strettle look delighted to be playing for England again.

One man, perhaps, sums everything up. Symbolic of England's short but promising progress since the debacle of the 2011 World Cup is a player who survived the cull: Manu Tuilagi.

Tuilagi (right) had a rum old time in New Zealand. …

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