Stuart Lancaster has left his post as England’s head coach by mutual consent following the dismal performance in the Rugby World Cup.
Lancaster, who was appointed in 2011, was the subject of a five-man review panel appointed by the Rugby Football Union to dissect the host nation’s elimination after the group stages.
“The Rugby Football Union can confirm that Stuart Lancaster has, by mutual consent, stepped down as England head coach,” read a statement.
“The decision follows England’s recent Rugby World Cup campaign which saw the team knocked out of the tournament at the pool stages after defeats to Wales and Australia.”
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The statement added that the process to find Lancaster’s replacement would begin immediately, with the new head coach to continue to report to the RFU’s chief executive Ian Ritchie.
There was no mention of Lancaster’s backroom staff in the RFU statement, leaving the futures of Graham Rowntree, Andy Farrell and Mike Catt up in the air.
The coaching team, like Lancaster, signed new deals last year which are due to run until the end of the 2019-20 season.
Lancaster, 46, presided over 28 wins in the 46 Test matches he took charge of but Ritchie said the decision was taken after assessing the performance at the World Cup.
“The Rugby World Cup was hugely disappointing for everyone associated with the England team and the subsequent review into the team’s performance was always intended to be extremely comprehensive, which it has been,” he said. “Stuart has been fully involved and has given feedback as well as the other coaches, players, management and a wide variety of people from around the game. Following the review, Stuart and I met, where we agreed that he should step down as head coach. This was subsequently ratified by the RFU board.”
Lancaster added: “I am obviously extremely saddened to finish the way we did in this World Cup and to step down from the role. As I have always said, I ultimately accept and take responsibility for the team’s performance and we have not delivered the results we all hoped for during this tournament. I did, however, want to take part in the review to ensure I understood the views of others before making a decision.
“The reality is that, while many aspects of the review were very positive, we didn’t achieve success on the field when it mattered and we all have to take responsibility for that but me especially as head coach.
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“I took on the role in difficult circumstances and it has been a huge challenge to transition the team with many hurdles along the way. However, I am immensely proud of the development of this team and I know that there is an incredibly strong foundation for them to progress to great things in the future. We have played some excellent rugby and it was always going to be tough to get the right level of experience into them in time for 2015. It is a young group of players with the huge majority available for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, where I believe their recent experience will make them genuine contenders.
“I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and everyone at the RFU for their commitment, support and hard work in my time as head coach. But most of all, I would like to thank the England rugby fans, who have always backed us and given us amazing support. The team feels a close connection with everyone across the grassroots game, which has been important to us all.”
England were recently linked with Michael Cheika after the Australian newspaper said that the RFU president, Jason Leonard, had sounded out Australia’s coach to see whether he would be interested in taking over England in time for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
An RFU spokesman, however, “categorically denied” there had been any contact between Leonard and Cheika.
He becomes the second high-profile name to be linked with England after the RFU denied approaching Nick Mallett, the former South Africa and Italy coach.
Stuart Lancaster’s record
Win ratio 60.9%
Six Nations record
Win ratio 80%
World Cup record
Win ratio 50%