Much has been penned about the future of England Rugby this week and in particular Stuart Lancaster's position as head coach.
Whatever individuals' thoughts are on Stuart's future I hope that everyone is united in the opinion that the manner in which he has conducted himself, in the aftermath of Saturday evening's defeat and England's exit from the competition, has been an example to all. Stuart has fronted into the defeat, of course the rest of the management team have addressed the press as well however Stuart has taken, by far, the lions share of the hit. Any fans' or followers' hurt will be absolutely nothing in comparison to England's head coach's, he is the man that the buck stops at and the man that knows that potentially his job will be taken from him as a result of the last three weeks.
Without question this will have been the hardest week of England's head coach's life, from the press inquest that took place less than 12 hours after the defeat against Australia to sitting in front of individuals that have already penned his exit later in the week. Of course as Stuart himself said it is part of the course of being England's head coach and individuals are just doing their jobs however that doesn't stop it being an extremely tough situation to be in.
The feeling that I have, from being present in the aftermath is that this set back will be too much for England's head coach, and potentially management team, to come back from. I believe that this side is in a good place, I have my personal questions over some of the selection choices made during this Rugby World Cup however the framework and foundations of England Rugby are rock solid. From my position on the outside I believe that England could continue to prosper if current individuals did remain in charge, that said, there signs that they may not. On Monday afternoon Andy Farrell spoke about Stuart as if he was delivering a final address, his final words about a colleague when he said;
"We have lost two games, and people will try to define us with those two defeats, but what Stuart has built here was more than that. This campaign, this whole 3 1/2 years under Stuart's leadership has been built on rock solid foundations and that won't change. He has done marvellous things for this country. I thank him for that hard graft he's put in. He's the proudest Englishman and the hardest working Englishman that I have ever met. He's done some famous things for this team. We've had some big wins and losses along the way, but Stuart's ability to put in place what he has and bring a meaning to the shirt has been absolutely second to none. Internally and that's where it counts, we know the score about what it's been about. It's been an absolutely privilege to work for such a caring guy."
This week the words from Stuart himself have not been delivered in the past tense, he has made no direct reference to what happens beyond Saturday or what decision he might make or might be made. Instead he has focused on his job at hand and spoken openly about anything put to him, when asked what he would tell the Stuart Lancaster of 2012 he said with a hint of a smile 'Good luck, get a tin hat and a flak jacket'.
The knowledge that you didn't deliver at a home Rugby World Cup, isn't a small set back it is a very large one, and whether you like it or not, will be forever held at this management teams' doorsteps like has occurred to others before. Following the conclusion of Saturday' test match there will be a review of all aspects of England Rugby. From players to coaches no-one ever sets out to fall short and my hope is that this audit is conducted with integrity for that is what this, and indeed, every management team deserves.