STUART LANCASTER, WHO will take charge of Leinster’s defence with immediate effect, said he wants to help the province become a “dominant force in Europe again”.

Lancaster was introduced at Leinster’s UCD base today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The former England head coach was unveiled to the media at Leinster’s UCD base this afternoon, after the province had earlier announced that Lancaster would join Leo Cullen’s backroom staff as a ‘Senior Coach.’

That role will see Lancaster primarily focus on Leinster’s defence after the departure of previous incumbent Kurt McQuilkin, although Lancaster said he also hopes to influence the province’s attack and academy system.

“Mainly to help Leo and, certainly, to help Leinster rugby become a dominant force in Europe again, and go one better [in the Pro12],” said Lancaster this afternoon when asked what his job as senior coach will involve.

Lancaster revealed that his first contact with the province came less than two weeks ago, when head coach Cullen called him.

“The more we talked, the more it became clear that with Kurt going, there was an opportunity to come in and I think Leo felt that I could offer value in attack and defence, with the experiences I’ve had.

“From my point of view, I’m more than happy to work underneath Leo because I don’t know the club, I don’t know the environment, I don’t know the relationships and everything. It suits me down to the ground just to get back into coaching again.”

Cullen stated that Lancaster will step into the role of defence coach “straight away” this week, ahead of Saturday’s visit to Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness Pro12.

Lancaster met Leinster’s players for the first time today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Lancaster – who most recently had a stint with Counties Manukau in New Zealand – was head coach of England and does not have an outstanding reputation as a defence coach, but he pointed out that he has experience in that aspect of the game.

“If you’re talking about experience in coaching, I’ve coached just about every part of the game,” said Lancaster. “I had a teaching career until I was 30 but I’ve been coaching now for 16 years.

“I think there’s a perception in England that I probably didn’t do any coaching. Andy Farrell clearly led on the defence when I was with England, but I was coaching defence not less than three weeks ago in New Zealand. At Counties Manukau, my main remit was to coach defence.

“I’ve got my own philosophy. Clearly, it’s been influenced by people I’ve worked under as defence coaches. I watched Mike Ford when he was the England defence coach, Andy Farrell latterly, I worked with Paul Gustard in Argentina when he came with me.

“I think I understand a lot about defence, but equally I’ve got a reasonably broad range and hopefully I can influence some of the attacking stuff as well and also reach down to some of the academy work.

“I’ve come from a development background, my role in England was not just head coach but also head of elite player development and I’d like to think I can offer Leinster something in that regard as well.”

Lancaster visited Leinster last weekend and spoke to Joe Schmidt and Andy Farrell after the initial contact from Cullen.

He has watched the province’s pre-season games and Friday night’s Pro12 win over Treviso, while he took in last season’s league semi-final and final and was “fascinated in seeing the contrast in the performance of the team” in those two play-off games.

Cullen and Lancaster both spoke in UCD today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Lancaster also found himself watching games from Leinster’s previous Heineken Cup glories, “because they were clearly the best team in Europe at the time and that’s what we want to be”.

Lancaster’s contract will keep him at Leinster until the end of the season at least, although the issue of his longer-term ambitions remains unclear.

“I’m open-minded but I have learned not to get too far ahead of myself in this job and I’ll be looking to Saturday first and foremost,” said Lancaster.

The arrival of Lancaster does also raise questions about the hierarchy in the Leinster backroom set-up, but the Englishman insisted that he is unconcerned about working under a head coach who has far less experience than him.

“Perfect, it means I don’t have to do any of the media stuff, I don’t have to make any of the difficult selection decisions, so it’s never been about titles for me,” said Lancaster.

“I don’t mind where I fit within the coaching team. Obviously, with England I gravitated to the head coaching role and I’m more than happy to help Leo out and pass on what I’ve learned; that’s certainly my intention.

“It’s more for me about the people: if you get the right people working together and there’s a common purpose and a common aim, the titles to a certain extent are slightly irrelevant.”

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