ENGLAND rugby chiefs have defended the decision to hand head coach Stuart Lancaster and his staff bumper new contracts lasting for two World Cups and into the next decade.
The deals until 2020 indicate that Lancaster and assistants Graham Rowntree, Mike Catt and Andy Farrell are likely to keep their jobs regardless of how England perform as hosts of next year’s tournament.
Yesterday’s announcement sparked concerns that the contracts – the longest ever awarded by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) – could breed complacency at a crucial time for the national team.
But RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said: “We’re lucky to have a talented, committed and passionate coaching group. We felt it important to secure their long-term future and believe this is entirely the right decision for the future of England rugby.”
Lancaster is already the fourth longest-serving head coach in the team’s history, having taken charge on an interim basis in December 2011 after Martin Johnson quit in the wake of a disastrous World Cup campaign in New Zealand.
The 44-year-old earned a contract until 2016 by leading England to second place in his first Six Nations and has repeated that result twice since. The former teacher, known for his methodical approach, has won 18 and lost 11 of his 30 Tests in charge.
“It’s great that the RFU have got faith in us as a coaching group and its support has been critical to what we have achieved to date,” he said.
England begin their four-match autumn campaign against New Zealand at Twickenham on 8 November, and kick off the World Cup in September 2015 against Fiji.