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Stuart Barnes says Stuart Lancaster proved to be weak and leaves no legacy behind

England head coach Stuart Lancaster during a press conference
Image: Lancaster's selection of Burgess showed he was weak according to Barnes

Stuart Barnes told Sky Sports News HQ Stuart Lancaster was 'weak' and his commitment to grassroots rugby was a sideshow.

After an extensive review of England's disastrous World Cup, Lancaster stepped down from his role as England's head coach, despite having more than four years remaining on his contract.

Former England fly-half Barnes says it was the right outcome from England's point of view, as he believes there was no indication Lancaster could have turned the team around if he continued in the role.

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"It's possible but there's no evidence on what Stuart achieved in his four years to suggest he would," Barnes told Sky Sports News HQ.

"There was no smooth, linear progress to his career and the end of his career was the worst aspect - the World Cup itself. So taking the evidence of what he achieved the answer has to be 'no'.

Lancaster allowed himself to be swayed; he was weak when he needed to be strong.
Stuart Barnes

The Sky Sports pundit is convinced that Lancaster will not leave any legacy behind, insisting the former head coach's tenure has been largely forgettable.

"Will he have a legacy? Will he be the bloke that in a pub quiz you'll say, 'Who was the England coach when they beat New Zealand in 2012?' and you'll go 'Lancaster - yeah, the bloke who got four second-places in the Six Nations'.

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"He hasn't turned England around in any sort of way to have a legacy. He could be like a prime minister or a president who really hasn't done much, and there is no legacy."

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One of Lancaster's driving issues during his time in charge of the 2003 World Champions was his desire for the growth of the game in England.

His commitment to grassroots rugby in the country was well advertised, but Barnes is unconvinced that Lancaster did as much for the game as he would have the public believe, and says instead the national team under him has dented the pride of English rugby.

"We in the media have spread the word for him, but taking England away from Pennyhill Park and taking them up to the North on a few occasions - I don't quite see how we get that absolute connection that is being claimed.

"I personally think this whole grassroots thing was a little bit of a sideshow and I think England got carried away with that. I don't see it.

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"By the end of the England regime you had guys gambling on stock markets coming into the World Cup, you had players arguing, you've had coaches having a go at journalists, players having a go at journalists.

"The pride in the new England has disappeared and I can't see as an Englishman what made me proud by the very end."


One of Lancaster's biggest controversies was his selection of league convert Sam Burgess for England's World Cup squad at the expense of more seasoned internationals.

Burgess has now left rugby union in the wake of the early World Cup exit, returning to Sydney to resume his career with the Rabbitohs in his favoured code. While Barnes believes the decision to include Burgess in the England team was the wrong one, he says it reflected poorly on Lancaster rather than Burgess.

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"Sam Burgess was a massive error of selection," said the Sky Sports pundit. "It was a bad judgement. But Sam Burgess himself was the symptom; he is not the cause of why Stuart Lancaster has lost his job and why England are eliminated from the World Cup.

"What Sam Burgess showed was that England had been building a game plan for about nine or ten months, and after a very bad warm-up period and a poor game against Fiji they panicked.

"With that panic they went with Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess. Lancaster allowed himself to be swayed; he was weak when he needed to be strong. The team had practiced one style of game and suddenly they were told 'we're not doing that any more'.

"That's when you look at him and you're thinking 'Blimey, under pressure he can't hack it'.

Quintessential Aussie

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Stuart Barnes believes England should be looking in the Southern Hemisphere in their hunt for a new head coach.

The search for England's new coach continues, with South Africans Jake White and Nick Mallett understood to be among the front runners for the job, along with Eddie Jones and current Australia coach Michael Cheika.

Of the four Barnes has a clear favourite to take the job at Twickenham, but doesn't believe England can lure him from his current post.

"Michael Cheika certainly does fit the bill, but I know Mike very well and he is a very proud Australian. He's a self-made man, he doesn't need the money. I cannot see Cheika saying 'I'll come to England if you offer me a lot of money'.

"He is the quintessential Aussie."

Stuart Barnes joins Dean Ryan and Ali Williams as they discuss England's future in an England Rugby Special on Thursday at 7pm on Sky Sports 2.

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