England interim coach's focus is Six Nations

by Staff Writer

Stuart Lancaster has insisted his focus is solely on Ireland as the debate over whether he should become England's full-time rugby union coach intensifies.

Lancaster was appointed interim coach for the duration of the Six Nations following Martin Johnson's post World Cup resignation and his 'audition' will come to an end with Saturday's finale against Ireland at Twickenham.

The former Leeds coach, previously in charge of England's reserve Saxons, heads into the match with a record of played four, won three with the only reverse a 19-12 Twickenham defeat by Grand Slam-chasers Wales.

Lancaster is also the only England coach to have overseen three away wins, including last weekend's dramatic 24-22 victory against France, in a Six Nations season - a feat that proved beyond World Cup winning boss Clive Woodward.

But the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have still to make up their minds, with the likes of former South Africa and Italy chief Nick Mallett, also vying for the England job.

"I've tended to focus all my energy this week on getting ready for the game really, so I've not put not much thought into the next steps or what the future may hold," Lancaster told reporters at England's training base in Bagshot on Thursday.

"The job is so consuming in terms of the number of things you are having to deal with on a daily basis, it tends to focus your attention on that."

England have indicated they would like a new permanent coach in place by the time they tour South Africa in June.

Lancaster said he didn't know when his future would be decided.

As well as winning praise for England's results, Lancaster has also been applauded for his 'back-to-basics' approach to the squad's conduct following England's notorious, and often alcohol-fuelled, excesses at the World Cup.

He shifted England's pre-tournament base from an exclusive resort in Portugal to a lower league club in Leeds, northern England.

"Reflecting back, it was the last week in January when we met at the camp in Leeds, that was the foundation for where we are now," Lancaster said.

"I remember at the time putting a lot of work into that week because I felt it was important to get it right and I think that was proven the case subsequently."

Lancaster paid tribute to the input of assistant coaches Andy Farrell, father of 20-year-old England fly-half Owen, and Graham Rowntree, a lone survivor from Johnson's coaching regime.

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