Why Scotland cannot underestimate Lancaster’s England

Stuart Lancaster, and below, Stuart Reid in his playing days
Stuart Lancaster, and below, Stuart Reid in his playing days
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Scotland will have to overcome the tactical nous of a “driven man” in Stuart Lancaster if they are to kick-start their Six Nations campaign with a Calcutta Cup win over England at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The England coach, of course, is a former Scotland Under-19 and Students flanker.

And ex-Boroughmuir, Edinburgh and Scotland player Stuart Reid, a former team-mate of Lancaster who has known him since their schooldays together at St Bees in Cumbria, is adamant that the standards now being set by the coach will be of the highest order.

“Stuart and I were at school together and played in the same Scotland Under-19 team,” he said. “While he went on to play for the Students and I stepped into the under-21s, we have still kept in touch.

“I met him over the summer and it is amazing the development in Stuart.

“He has really settled in as England coach and although he hasn’t worn an international jersey or played the game at that level himself, I think the respect he has for the jersey is part of what drives him.

“Stuart has a pedigree right up there with the best in coming through the club system with Leeds to the England Saxons and their academy system.

“His coaching CV is hard to beat; it shows you don’t have to have played internationally to coach these teams.”

The England inherited by Lancaster from Martin Johnson had returned from a failed 2011 World Cup bid tarnished by off-field escapades such as dwarf-throwing, late night benders and jumping off a ferry in Auckland.

According to Reid, the apparent indiscipline in the ranks at that time enabled his old pal to play a trump card.

He said: “I have never met a man with such high moral standards both in his own personal life and what he expects from friends and family.

“He really is a very driven man who has told me a few things he did with the players when he took over. It was about reintroducing them to what it meant to be playing for England.

“When he was England Saxons coach he was watching from the outside and felt it didn’t mean enough to the guys to wear the white jersey.”

It is well chronicled that Lancaster assembled his squad at a club ground to remind them of their rugby roots and wider responsibilities.

Reid added: “The first thing he did was install the belief that wearing the country’s jersey was special.

“I think there was an element of not having played internationals himself making him respect the position even more.”

Lancaster was able to represent Scotland teams due to an ancestry qualification and Reid, who actually toured with England Schools alongside Martin Johnson, said: “You could say he was one that got away but there was a time when he came under the coaching of John Rutherford at the Students and that would have taught him a lot about the game.”

Ex-Grand Slam stand-off Rutherford is also impressed with the work of the England coach. “I’m a big fan of Stuart,” he said. “He was a good thinker turning out at flanker in the team I coached.

“I’ve also been impressed with the way he goes about his current job.

“For 40 minutes against France, the England team were awesome (before losing 24-26).”

That defeat in Paris last weekend brings a sense of adversity – so how does Rutherford reckon his old prodigy will react? He said: “Like all coaches he will take the positives and move on and Scott Johnson will be focusing on how Scotland did some good things in Dublin but were undone by letting Jonny Sexton escape to set up a score, the line-outs and scrums.

“In the case of Lancaster, missing out on international caps himself will be one of the things driving him but he has served an apprenticeship and worked his way through age-groups to get the respect of his team.

“One thing I do know is that he will be analysing Scotland to the umpteenth degree.”

Reid also explained that Lancaster has helped him in his charity work with Erskine Hospital, the leading care organisation for ex-Service men and women in Scotland. “Stuart has been a great supporter of the charity ventures including giving his time,” he said.

Reid, meanwhile, anticipates an engrossing match this weekend, but isn’t convinced it will have much bearing on the destination of the Six Nations crown itself. “I’m expecting a cracking Calcutta Cup but so far as the title is concerned it is hard to see past Wales,” he said.