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Ex-England coach in the frame for Connacht job

By Cian Tracey

Stuart Lancaster was apparently one of Pat Lam's main rivals for the Bristol gig, but yesterday the former England coach was keen to stress that he "never had one conversation with anyone from the club".

That may well be the case but it will be fascinating to see if the same scenario occurs when Connacht and the IRFU sound out the viable replace­ments for Lam as head coach.

Lancaster is likely to be in the frame: the bookies have already installed him among the favourites to take over the Westerners.

His agreement with Leinster runs until the end of the season and there remains no clarity on whether he will still be with the province after his contract expires.

Lancaster has had a really positive impact since he joined Leo Cullen's backroom staff, and the noises coming from the players have been resound­ingly positive.

He is, however, an ambitious coach and surely wants another crack at being the main man.

"I'm keen to continue on what I am doing here," Lancaster said before a cautionary note: "We will see how it plays out. We have yet to have those conversations because for me the focus is just about the here and now.

"I learned a while ago that you operate on a day-to-day basis in this business now. My focus is firmly on today and getting this team ready to play North­ampton on Friday because it is a big two games for us."

Lancaster may never have been in the running for the Bristol job but he certainly understands the potential of the club, despite them being winless and rooted to the foot of the English Premiership table.

There is still time for the club to turn their fortunes around this season but the likelihood is that Lam's first objec­tive will be to steer them back to the top flight - a task that Lancaster knows all too well given his first season in charge of Leeds Carnegie in 2006/07.

"He's walking into a very good club. It's got a fantastic history and tradition and a very strong supporter base," he explained.

"Rugby is passionately supported in the Bristol area so it is a very good fit from that point of view.

"I have been in the position that Bristol were in, where you get promoted to the Premiership on the final game of the season and you are trying to recruit and become competitive in the Premiership, and all the talent has been signed up.

"It's very difficult to make that step but Bristol have got more and more competitive. He's got a chance to build some­thing sustainable in the short-term and the long-term, and that is what Pat has obviously done at Connacht, so he seems a great fit."

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