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There's no benefit in planning too far ahead, cautions Lancaster



Tough time: Leinster's Stuart Lancaster calls for discipline

Tough time: Leinster's Stuart Lancaster calls for discipline

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Tough time: Leinster's Stuart Lancaster calls for discipline

Stuart Lancaster has things firmly in perspective. He's here to talk about rugby, but the bigger picture is never far from his mind.

So, as we probe for insights into rugby's return, the Leinster senior coach demurs from any big predictions and ensures there is no doubt of the priorities at play - even as he outlines the "baby-steps" professional players must take to get from quarantine to the pitch.

The former England coach is back in his home in Leeds and, while he is keeping in touch with his players remotely, he is keen not to over-do it.

In theory, he could be standing in front of a group of players in three weeks' time if the provinces are given the green light for their planned return to training on May 18.

And yet, even as he contemplates potential Heineken Champions Cup matches in October or even a shot at the Lions next year, he returns to the life and death issues that put sport firmly in its place right now.

At one stage, he is asked about the difference in approaches between the UK and Irish governments and, while he stayed firmly diplomatic in his answer, he wandered into personal territory as he contemplated the gravity of the situation around him.

"I was only thinking about it the other day, my dad went into ICU (Intensive Care) when I was at Leinster and I'll never forget that feeling of having to go and visit him. So, for every one case that's out there it's a tragedy for so many people," he said.

You can understand why he's not too hung up on the game he loves restarting once again.

"Everyone seems to be centred around October," he said of the Champions Cup. "I think there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before we even get to that point; training - small group training to larger group training, to proper competitive training, to warm-up games and everything else.

"I would imagine that, behind the scenes at World Rugby and the top end of EPCR and the top end of the club game, there will be healthy debate about what's happening in that October window. We don't know what's going to happen on May 5, never mind the end of October."

Thus, Lancaster is staying at home like the rest of us.

At one stage, he sent his players a WhatsApp compilation video of the team's big moments this season and areas of opportunity which included a message on thriving in isolation.

"One of the analogies I gave in that video was from Richard Parks, a former Welsh back rower, who has done various challenges around the world like walking up Everest," he said.

"He has done solo expeditions to the South Pole and he talked about his process of walking on his own in isolation - going through 'storming, norming, and performing'.

"The storming bit is battling on, trying to get going. The norming bit is getting used to it. Then the performing piece is where you're making progress in that goal of walking in isolation to the South Pole. I thought it was a good analogy for the players, who are in that process. I think we all are. My routine, your routine, everyone's routine has fallen into place and I think we're adapting."

It remains to be seen what effect this stoppage will have on the players, particularly those in their 30s who may see this period as valuable lost time.

However, Lancaster believes the likes of Ireland and Leinster captain Johnny Sexton will use it as an opportunity to prolong their careers.

"I think if you speak to Johnny he'll probably say it's extended his career by another five years!" he said. "If you manage this period well personally, you should be able to come back in good shape. I think you should be able to get over any little niggles.

"For those players who are coming towards the end of their careers, over 30, if they manage themselves in this period it could actually be of benefit but the trick is, obviously, the self-discipline to manage yourself."

Belfast Telegraph