Healey backs Ashton and Lancaster pairing

FORMER England star Austin Healey has hailed new national team boss Stuart Lancaster as the ideal man for the job and backed 2007 World Cup coach Brian Ashton to be an “inspirational” addition to the set-up.

Lancaster was handed the top job on a permanent basis last week, after revitalising a despondent squad and leading England to four wins from five as caretaker head coach at the recent Six Nations .

“I think Stuart is exactly the right man for the job and it’s a bright new dawn for English rugby,” Healey told City A.M.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people around the country who feel the same and I think it’s time for us to get back behind the team. The World Cup has gone, it’s a new England and it’s time to move on.”

Veteran Ashton, 65, is thought to be under consideration for a role assisting rookie Lancaster with his next task, the summer tour to South Africa – and Healey is firmly in favour.

“Brian Ashton is a brilliant coach. I found him an inspirational guy – if he’s still got those qualities he’s definitely someone you’d want involved on some level,” the former Leicester back added.

“I don’t necessarily think Stuart needs an older head, but maybe a couple more mouths would help create a diverse coaching staff which could break boundaries for England.”

Healey, 38, was speaking at yesterday’s Gold Challenge at London’s Olympic Stadium, where he was running to raise funds for children’s charity the NSPCC.

The event marked the first time the stadium’s doors had been opened to the public ahead of this summer’s Games, and Healey believes the arena’s design could give British athletes a crucial competitive advantage.

“I think the atmosphere is going to be amazing. You can feel the noise already and there are only a few thousand here – it holds 80,000,” said the ex-British and Irish Lion.

“I’ve played in a lot of stadiums and this has an intimate feel that I think will make it more special come the Olympics.

“I think British athletes will get another couple of per cent out of their performances and that’s all they might need to turn silver medals into golds.”