Lancaster gives England perfect tonic
Conor O’Shea may think Stuart Lancaster has been a breath of fresh air to the English game, but he hopes the winds of change are not strong this weekend.
The Harlequins chief is part of a five-man panel charged with helping the RFU appoint a long-term replacement to Martin Johnson and will be watching closely when skipper Chris Robshaw leads England out against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.
Lancaster is in the box seat and has led a resurgent England to an impressive Six Nations campaign thus far – featuring last Sunday’s 24-22 triumph over France in Paris.
Former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett heads the list of candidates to take charge on a permanent basis.
But O’Shea has admitted England’s rising stock under the incumbent leaves Lancaster in a strong position come the day of reckoning later this month.
“England’s performances have been exactly what the English game has needed,” he said.
“The whole group have been responsible for that, from the players to the management and the head coach.
“The atmosphere in the stadium against Wales was the best it had been for years.
“But you have to be realistic about these things. You have good days and bad days in sport. England were a couple of charge downs and a drop goal away from being four defeats from four games.
“At the same time they were a mistake away from challenging for a Grand Slam.
“But there will be no split loyalties from me at the weekend. When Chris got the captaincy I said he could win every game, but this one.”
Former Quins boss Dean Richards has confirmed he will take charge of Newcastle Falcons when his three-year Bloodgate ban expires in August.
But winger Tom Williams, who received a four-month ban for his part in the injury faking scandal, seems less certain of his Stoop future.
“It is great to see Dean back in the game. He did a great job here,” added O’Shea.
“Tom has been excellent for us this year, but I never talk about contracts until they have or haven’t been signed.”
l A strong Quins line-up, featuring fit-again Maurie Fa’asavalu, lost 24-14 to Exeter Braves in an A League friendly clash at the Stoop on Wednesday night.