Rugby World Cup 2015: Will review end Lancaster's reign?

Stuart Lancaster
Lancaster is under contract with the RFU until 2020
Rugby World Cup
Dates: 18 September-31 October
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England need to appoint a director of rugby, according to former England centre Jeremy Guscott, as the review into the their World Cup failure begins.

England are the first hosts in the tournament's history to fail to reach the quarter-finals, with losses to Wales and Australia in the so-called 'Pool of Death' sealing their fate.

The Rugby Football Union's World Cup inquest could mark the beginning of the end for head coach Stuart Lancaster, whose selections and tactics have been widely criticised.

Here, Guscott and others give their verdicts on what should happen next.

How long will the review take?

The RFU's post-World Cup inquest will be led by the man who appointed Lancaster, chief executive Ian Ritchie, who has promised a "360-degree review" without publicly setting out the timetable and parameters for the inquisition.

The RFU has declined to reveal the number of people on the panel, but it is believed it will solely concentrate on the national team's coaching set-up rather than any wider issues.

Stuart Lancaster
England failed to reach the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup for the first time in their history

Lancaster indicated last week that the review could be completed within weeks and said he has "no problems" with it.

"The ideal scenario is that it is done privately and confidentially and the results are then made public but that might be quite hard," he has said.

Guscott does not believe the RFU need much time to assess the situation.

"You'd hope that the coaching team has been set a minimum target to achieve during this Rugby World Cup. If they've hit the target, they stay," he told BBC Sport.

'Player input could be very divisive'

Four years ago players were said to feel "betrayed"external-link after their confidential verdicts into England's dismal 2011 World Cup, when off-field problems dominated the headlines, was leaked to a national newspaper.

Guscott said neither the players nor the coaches should be involved this time because their feedback would not be impartial.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward agrees, writing in his Daily Mailexternal-link column that player input could potentially not only be limited but "very divisive".

Tom Wood (left) with Chris Robshaw
"They've done themselves proud in terms of their preparation and work-rate," says Tom Wood of England's coaches

Players were giving their verdicts within a week of their quarter-final defeat in 2011, but Rugby Players' Association chief executive Damian Hopley has said the squad members should return to their clubs and reflect before expressing their views.

But England flanker Tom Wood has already publicly supported the coaching team.

"I think I can speak for most of the lads - I want Stuart and the coaches to come out fighting," the 28-year-old said at the weekend.

Is a director of rugby the answer?

Former England outside-half Rob Andrew is the RFU's professional rugby director, but the RFU - the biggest rugby organisation in the world - does not have a director of rugby.

"A director of rugby should be appointed and let that person get on with keeping the same coaches, or bringing in what they feel is right," said Guscott.

According to Woodward, Ritchie must "urgently" appoint a director of rugby who should then, in turn, make a decision on whether Lancaster should remain.

"The new director of rugby would undertake the review on his own," said Woodward. "He would interview who he wants of the management and people behind the scenes, but not the players.

"He will decide whether Lancaster and his coaching team can take England forward or if a complete change is required."

What about England's overseas policy?

Much has been made of the RFU's policy of not considering players who are based outside the Premiership, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Steffon Armitage
Armitage has won an unprecedented three consecutive European titles with Toulon but just five England caps

Flanker Steffon Armitage, the 2014 European Player of the Year, was ruled out of the tournament by the RFU because he plays his club rugby in France for Toulon.

Armitage's absence was especially highlighted after the defeat by the Wallabies, when breakdown specialist Michael Hooper and David Pocock completely dominated England's back row.

But Guscott supports the RFU's stance, saying England should only select overseas-based players if there is a release clause written into their contracts enabling them to attend every national squad session.

"I would get rid of the 'exceptional circumstances' phrase and just not mention it at all," said Guscott. "Until the time comes when a lot of players start to go overseas, like the Aussies are experiencing, then the RFU don't need to change anything except that phrase."

Should Lancaster bow out?

Lancaster was appointed on a temporary basis in December 2011, charged with clearing up the mess of the 2011 World Cup, and awarded the role permanently after a promising start to his tenure - which included a stunning 38-21 win over New Zealand in 2012.

The 45-year-old signed a six-year contract extension last year, but now finds himself in limbo until the outcome of the review is published.

During his tenure England have not won a Six Nations title in four attempts - finishing second on four successive occasions - and have now failed to make it out of a World Cup pool for the first time in England's history, reaching their lowest ebb in a thumping 33-13 defeat by Australia in a must-win match at Twickenham.

Anthony Watson

Lancaster's team selections and tactics in this World Cup campaign have mystified many former players and current Premiership coaches.

His preference for league convert Sam Burgess in the initial 31-man squad over Luther Burrell, a star performer in this year's Six Nations, was criticised by Northampton boss Jim Mallinder. external-link

And former internationals, such as Mark Cueto and Kyran Bracken, have said Lancaster should go.

"This is four and a half years of failure," said former scrum-half Bracken.

But Graham Henry, whose All Black side lost in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup before winning the competition four years later, believes Lancaster should keep his job.

"He has got the ability - it's a no-brainer to me," the 69-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek programme.

What does Lancaster say?

Despite having a contract until 2020, Lancaster's position is under serious threat but the man himself said on Saturday he had not had time to reflect.

Hard to walk away - Lancaster

"With all the things to organise I haven't had time to sit back and chat to anyone about anything really. But there is a bit more space in the diary this week," he said after England's victory over Uruguay.

"You have to allow the dust to settle and have a chance to think, and it won't be all my decision anyway. Anyone in my position who has worked since December 2011 to this point would say it would be hard to walk away from, but equally I understand it is a results business.

"It is a difficult one to answer at the moment. There are a lot of people with opinions and what I tried to do is make sure the culture and character of the team stayed strong through the week."

Mallett, Gatland, Ford... Who could be next?

Nick Mallett
Former Springboks and Italy coach Mallett is now a TV analyst in South Africa

The RFU has denied reports in South Africa suggesting it has already been in touch with former Springbok coach Nick Mallett, who was interviewed for the head coach's role along with Lancaster in 2011.

The 58-year-old South African has said he would not consider the role this time around.

Wales coachWarren Gatland, under contract with the Welsh Rugby Union for another four years with a £1.2m compensation clause in his deal, has joked that the RFU could not afford him.

Bath rugby boss Mike Ford is among the favourites but has insisted he would reject an offer to replace Lancaster should it come his way as he has "unfinished business" with the Premiership club.

Exeter'sRob Baxter, who has been one of the current regime's critics, has ruled himself out of the running, while Saints' Mallinder, who was upset that England had not selected hooker Dylan Hartley in the squad, has said his club is his priority "at this moment in time".

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