sport

Lancaster refreshed and ready

Just 48 hours after England had finished runners-up in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, Stuart Lancaster retreated to Tenerife to enter his "cave".

Needing to balance the demands of performing an all-encompassing job alongside raising a young family, Lancaster agreed with wife Nina that he would spend two days alone on the Canary Island.

Holiday makers were surprised to spot England's head coach sitting at poolside as he reflected on an encouraging Six Nations, while daughter Sophie greeted his decision to dine alone with the message "weirdo".

Having organised his thoughts, he returned home to Leeds to resume a family life currently being interupted for five weeks by the impending summer tour to New Zealand and that will continue to dwindle as the 2015 World Cup looms.

"Sometimes I need space to think things through and that's always the biggest challenge of the job because there are so many moving parts," said Lancaster.

"You've been away in camp and you need some space to think and reflect, plan and review, but you also want to spend time with your family.

"The kids are 13 and 14, so quite formative years. My teaching background tells me that dad needs to be around as much as possible.

"There's a lot of scrutiny around the job, but it's the time away from home that's the biggest pressure.

"It worked better after this Six Nations when I told my wife that I needed a day and a half, which she described as me going into my cave.

"She said she didn't mind as long as I came out at the end of it!

"It was a bit of thinking time in the sun, a couple of beers. I was on my own, sat at poolside. I needed to do some work and the review.

"Loads of people recognised me and kept asking 'what are you doing on your own?!'.

"I sent a text to my daughter on the Monday evening and said 'I'm just having a meal in this restaurant'.

"She asked who was I with and when I replied no-one, she text me back saying 'weirdo' and turned the phone off! That's the price of fame! It was quite funny really.

"It was what I needed - I did my work, got back and was out of my cave."

The two years of Lancaster's stewardship have seen England emerge from the wreckage of their dismal 2011 World Cup to become a force capable of challenging for the Webb Ellis trophy next year.

Alongside the overhaul of a team that had lost its way during successive failed regimes, Lancaster has established a squad culture that makes a repeat of the reputation-damaging visits to New Zealand in 2008 and 2011 unthinkable.

England's progress has brought with it greater recognition for the 44-year-old Cumbrian, an element of the job with which he is becoming increasingly comfortable.

"I don't get recognised wherever I go because I didn't have that high a profile when I was a player," he said.

"I'm not in the public eye all the time, but it is growing with every campaign.

"The attention takes a bit of getting used to when you've never had it before, but it's always good.

"I enjoy talking to people about rugby, I love that part of the job."

Lancaster's passion for the sport extends to coaching son Daniel at West Park Leeds under-13s, with his presence on the sidelines often noticed by trophy-hunting opposition coaches.

"When I started coaching them I was England Saxons coach and none of them knew what the Saxons were," he said.

"They were only six at the time, so they've never known any different than me coaching them.

"It's more the opposition who notice it. The local teams are used to it, it's more when you go away they think, 'Oh my God'.

"Then if we lose, their coach wants photos with his thumbs up claiming victory!"

The second year of Lancaster's reign has been pot-marked by occasional criticism - usually over his replacement strategy - from one of his predecessors as England head coach, Sir Clive Woodward.

Although at ease with his own media duties, Lancaster believes his future will remain on the training ground and not offering opinions from the pages of a national newspaper.

"I don't know what will happen next, so you never look too far ahead. But I'm most motivated by helping coaches improve as coaches," he said.

"I enjoy working with people to help them get better and that doesn't matter if it's my son's under-13 team, or spending time with the England Under-20s or sevens. I like adding value and building teams."

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