England

'Interim' tag no problem for Lancaster

Fri, 01 Mar 2013 12:56
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It was win-win
Quote-end

Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea's decision to employ him as "interim manager" was a "massive mistake" but for England flyhalf Toby Flood it was the making of national coach Stuart Lancaster.

Benitez criticised the status of his appointment during an outspoken interview following Chelsea's 2-0 FA Cup win over Middlesbrough on Wednesday where he also slammed the club's fans.

And the Spaniard made it clear that what might have been an audition for a permanent post in some eyes was nothing of the sport as far as he was concerned, with Benitez confirming he would leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

Lancaster, promoted from coaching the second string Saxons, was given the same title when promoted to take charge of England following the resignation of Martin Johnson after a wretched 2011 World Cup for the Red Rose brigade in New Zealand.

There was a view to start with that Lancaster, now in permanent charge, was merely keeping the seat warm for experienced former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett.

But instead the Englishman seized his chance, guiding the side to four wins from five matches as England finished runners-up behind 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales

While the experienced Flood accepts Benitez had a particular problem in having criticised Chelsea while in charge of Liverpool, he said Lancaster always saw the "interim" tag as an opportunity.

"In some respects Stuart came in as an interim, Rafa Benitez-esque, boss that meant it was win-win," said Leicester stand-off Flood, who could start a week on Sunday at Twickenham when England continue their Grand Slam bid against Italy if Owen Farrell does not recover from a thigh strain.

"Stuart viewed it as though he had a chance and in order to succeed he was going to do exactly what he wanted to do," the 27-year-old added.

"You can create an environment. All clubs have different cultures, we all know what Leicester is like for example. Before results, come performances, before performances comes culture. That's what Stuart's tried to create.

"We want to win, but we're worried about the culture. If we get that right and the desire and want to play for the shirt right, the results come.

"Benitez's problem is that he doesn't have the support of the fans. That wasn't the same for Stuart because he always said they were fundamentally important to us.

"Benitez was operating in the context of having slagged a team off and then becoming their manager, which changes things.

"But for Stuart being interim was a way of going 100 percent at it. It was a big, big shot and in a way was an open job interview."

Meanwhile Flood, who replaced Farrell when the latter was injured during England's 23-13 win over France last weekend, insisted he had no problems being viewed as the back-up No 10.

"I'm on standby at the moment. I understand where I am and I don't think any of us realise how far away Owen is," he said.

"Hopefully he'll be running around next week and taking part. At the moment I'm on tenterhooks to see where I get to."

AFP

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