#360Rugby: Welcome back Wallabies, pack your bags Stuart Lancaster

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Contrasting fortunes: The Wallabies (L) and England coach Stuart Lancaster (R).

After another breathless week of Rugby World Cup action, Andrew Binner takes in four lessons learned from Week Three,  including the rise of the Wallabies and an Irish wobble.

– RWC: All Blacks ready to step it up a level in final group game
– RWC: O’Connell – ‘France a mountain of a challenge’
– RWC: Highs and lows of Rugby World Cup so far

ENGLAND NEED WHOLESALE CHANGES

England have not won a trophy during Stuart Lancaster’s tenure and his team will now be remembered as the worst-performing host in World Cup history.

A host of poor tactical decisions before and during matches demonstrate a lack of leadership throughout the team, but ultimately Lancaster must be held accountable for this embarrassment.

Modern rugby requires a specialist, ball-winning seven and by sticking with Robshaw, Lancaster has severely hampered England’s effectiveness in this area. Picking Sam Burgess, although admirable in its ambition, proved a poor gamble given the high stakes of a World Cup and it will be interesting to see if the league convert sticks it out in union.

It should be noted at this point that Sir Clive Woodward endured a torrid time in his early career as England coach with a poor 1999 World Cup and the infamous ‘Tour of Hell’ preceding one of the finest coaching careers ever.

Should Lancaster be afforded the same loyalty and a chance to right his wrongs? The former Leeds coach has a contract through to the next World Cup but the RFU would be taking a gamble of their own in honouring it.

Unfortunately for Lancaster, the world’s top coaching talent is champing at the bit for a crack at his job and the RFU would be foolish to ignore their advances. In Eddie Jones and Jake White, England have two proven international coaches with the pedigree to take the Red Rose back to the top.

AUSTRALIA BACK IN BUSINESS

This time last year the Wallabies were in disarray and their turnaround in the last 12 months has been quite remarkable. At the centre of their rehabilitation has been coach Michael Cheika, who has instilled stability, creativity and purpose .

Selecting two openside flankers in Michael Hooper and David Pocock in the same back row seemed to be a risk, but the results speak for themselves and the decision proved a masterstroke.

With conditions set to take a turn for the worse over the next few weeks, Australia may struggle to release their potent backs with the same force as England were made to suffer but if there is one coach who will have a plan for that, it is Cheika.

With such belief reverberating through a buoyant squad it is hard to see any team standing between the Wallabies and the semi-finals at least. 
ST JAMES’ PARK A FITTING RUGBY HOME

The World Cup organisers’ decision to take the tournament to Newcastle was inspired and the atmosphere inside the stadium for Scotland vs South Africa was electric. Many doubted the merits of incorporating such a large stadium in a football heartland but it has proven a real success story.

The proximity to Scotland meant that there was a significant amount of ‘home’ support in and around the ground, while the crowd roared every pass, kick and run with the intensity of a Tyne-Wear derby.

The one drawback was the condition of the pitch, with the first scrum churning up the grass like laminated flooring, but other than that the shorter grass made for a faster game. With two more games in quick succession coming this week (Scotland vs Samoa and New Zealand vs Tonga) the pitch will be one area for concern, but the levels of noise from the stands will most certainly not.

IRELAND HAVE A WOBBLE

Ireland will be pleased after booking their place in the quarter-finals, but not so much with the scrappy win over Italy that got them there.

Many fancy Ireland to challenge for their first-ever World Cup title this year, but another performance like this in the final group game against France and Ireland will be heading home early via a quarter-final with New Zealand.

In what can only be described as a laborious display, Joe Schmidt’s men played attritional, and largely risk-free rugby with no fluency in their attacking play.

Italy to their credit made it tough for Ireland to gain any momentum with dogged and relentless defence and a special mention must go to the inspirational display from captain Sergio Parisse, who led his men with a powerful display, having been on the operating table just four weeks ago.

World Cup-winning sides rarely play their best in the group stages (just look at New Zealand’s displays in their group); Ireland must now use this performance to refocus and rediscover their attacking flair.

EXTRA TIME

Different teams find inspiration from different sources. South Africa play for the pride of a unified nation and Wales to represent a rugby-mad country. This week, Argentina drew inspiration from legendary footballer Diego Maradona in the week running up to their game with Tonga. Judging by the result and the party afterwards, this World Cup has not seen the last of El Pibe de Oro.

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