Lancaster hits the books
May 14, 2012
England's three-man coaching team for the tour of South Africa: Graham Rowntree, Stuart Lancaster and Mike Catt © Getty Images
England boss Stuart Lancaster has gone back to school in his bid to ready himself and his side for next month's tour of South Africa.
A new-look England squad face a daunting three-Test, five-match tour and Lancaster is leaving no stone unturned as he looks build on his side's recent resurgence during the Six Nations.
The ever-honest Lancaster admits he knew relatively little about South African rugby having assumed the England role full time and immediately set about addressing the shortfall in local knowledge.
"I wanted to know more about the texture of the country, the feel of the place, so I asked a guy to write a report on the culture of South African rugby, what makes them special as a rugby-playing nation, as well as providing analysis on the Bulls and the Stormers and on Heyneke Meyer [the new Springbok coach] and his probable coaching team," Lancaster told the Sunday Telegraph. "It made me aware of where rugby sits in the South African psyche, the impact of winning World Cups and how it seems to draw the nation together."
Lancaster also sampled the passion they have for a sport in person on a recent trip to the country to prepare for the tour and attempt, unsuccessfully, to persuade Chiefs assistant coach Wayne Smith to join his backroom team.
"Whilst I was there I saw the column inches devoted to the sport in the newspapers," Lancaster told the newspaper. "Here we are dominated by football. There it was rugby. I also bought and read the autobiographies of Butch James, Victor Matfield, John Smit and Jake White [South Africa's World Cup-winning coach in 2007]. It will certainly be a learning experience for me, but so was going to the Stade de France to play France and taking on Ireland at Twickenham. I hadn't done either of those six months ago."
The Springboks have won their last seven games against England while the tourists have also failed to win on South African soil since Sir Clive Woodward's side scored a memorable triumph in Bloemfontein in 2000. But having done his homework, Lancaster is convinced his side can prosper in South Africa.
"The mindset is crucial," Lancaster said. "I think England have approached end-of-season tours in the past feeling sorry for themselves, thinking it's the end of a long, hard season. I talked to the players during the Six Nations about getting ready for the tour and asked them what would be different this time. I think it was Dylan Hartley who said, 'It's because we're talking about it now'.
"Before, some players have taken the view that the season finished at the end of May and the tour was an add-on. If we have the mentality that we're going to go there to front up, then that's how we can begin to acquire the appropriate physicality. Get that right and you have a contest."
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