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Former coach Stuart Lancaster saw England's winning run coming

Stuart Lancaster has hailed England's "fantastic" unbeaten run under his successor Eddie Jones - but says he is not surprised by their imperious form this year.

A current 14-Test winning record began with Lancaster's final game in charge of a failed 2015 World Cup campaign when England beat Uruguay 60-3 in Manchester.

England's pool-stage exit - the first host nation in Rugby World Cup history to suffer that fate - saw Lancaster depart Twickenham shortly afterwards, with Australian Jones summoned on a four-year contract as head coach.

And the transformation has been a spectacular one, with England having won a Six Nations Grand Slam, whitewashed Australia in a three-Test series Down Under and then reeled off four autumn victories that included beating the Wallabies again, plus their Rugby Championship rivals South Africa and Argentina.

Lancaster, now a coach with Irish heavyweights Leinster, will be at Northampton on Friday for a European Champions Cup clash against the Saints, whose match-day 23 includes familiar faces like England forwards Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood.

"To go for such a long extended run is pretty unique. Very few international teams have been on that sort of winning run," he said.

"It's fantastic, really, but in terms of success, I am not surprised because I know the team and know how good the players are.

"I think the credit goes to Eddie and his coaches. I think they have done a brilliant job in getting the best out of a very experienced team.

"When the World Cup came, we had about 450 caps in the starting side. Now, it's about 600-700 with an average age of 25. I always said that the new phase of England rugby would be successful.

"But nothing happens by chance, and i think the coaches, and in particular Eddie, deserve the credit for that."

Lancaster revealed he met with Jones not long after the Rugby Football Union deemed him surplus to requirements, and told him what playing quality he had at his fingertips.

"I said to Eddie 'I think there is a good squad here, a good group of players'. And he has brought his own personality and style to the team, which they've benefited from.

"Good luck to them for the Six Nations, Being in Ireland now, all roads are leading to the Aviva (Stadium) on St Patrick's Day (England play Ireland in the tournament's final match a day afterwards). It will be some Six Nations.

"Across the board, you build so many relationships, so I am pleased for all of them - Tom Wood coming back into the equation, Chris Robshaw - those sort of guys who were in my leadership team.

"For Tom to get back in and play well and demonstrate to Eddie what he can offer, I am pleased for him. I am equally pleased for everyone, really. They are a good group of honest players who have always wanted to get better, and you are seeing that now."

Lancaster is relishing what he describes as a "hands-on coaching" role with Leinster, and victory over Northampton ahead of next week's return fixture in Dublin should see Leinster consolidate their position as Pool Four leaders.

"As a coach, you always have to prove yourself. I am certainly having to prove myself to players here," he said.

"These players are top-end players who have been coached by some very good coaches. That's what drives me more than anything else. I don't miss certain parts of the (head coach) job, and I do enjoy being back coaching again.

"I am pretty open-minded about the future. It's been a great move to come back into a top-end European club, but I have learnt now not to plan too far ahead."

It is conceivable that Lancaster, working with Leinster's numerous Ireland internationals, and his former England coaching lieutenant Andy Farrell - now Ireland's defence coach - will have had a key part to play should England come unstuck in Dublin next March.

"Andy is a big personality who can inspire the players to want to defend and provide a system that gives them a good way to defend," Lancaster added.

"Andy and I spoke about the role at Leinster when I got the role, and I think he was quite pleased. He knew I would be operating in a similar way in defence.

"I've got my own differences in attack, but it helps Andy because the players are jumping from club to country, and it helps if they are coached in a similar way."


From Belfast Telegraph