‘Spe­cial’ coach Lan­caster key to Euro glory, in­sists Sex­ton

Daily Mail - - Rugby Union -

IT WAS Johnny Sex­ton’s en­dorse­ment that helped Stuart Lan­caster land a job at Le­in­ster and the Ire­land fly-half paid trib­ute to the for­mer Eng­land coach again after they be­came Euro­pean cham­pi­ons for the fourth time. In mov­ing scenes fol­low­ing an at­tri­tional Cham­pi­ons Cup fi­nal in Bil­bao on Satur­day, Lan­caster was joined on the pitch by wife Nina and son Daniel, to cel­e­brate with the tro­phy, which was won cour­tesy of Isa Nacewa’s 79th-minute penalty. Le­in­ster’s head coach Leo Cullen brought in the for­mer Eng­land coach in 2016. Sex­ton — who kicked nine points, with Nacewa slot­ting six — said of Lan­caster: ‘What a spe­cial coach. To come in and do what he’s done has been in­cred­i­ble and for Leo to bring him in was amaz­ing.’ Sex­ton’s ad­mi­ra­tion for Lan­caster is shared by the en­tire Le­in­ster squad. Scrum-half Luke McGrath added: ‘He’s changed our whole struc­ture and shape of our game. He has been bril­liant.’ While the Cum­brian has had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the Irish province, he has been given re­mark­able tal­ent to work with. Take James Ryan. The Ire­land lock, known as ‘Cheese’, is 21. He has played 21 se­nior matches, at club and Test level, and won the lot. He was man of the match on Satur­day. It was just busi­ness as usual. Vet­eran prop Cian Healy, who de­scribed this mo­men­tous vic­tory as be­ing ‘like win­ning a fight with­out throw­ing a punch’, said: ‘With the likes of Cheese — 21 and 0 — ex­pec­ta­tions have to be high. When you see him step up to the plate it’s jaw-drop­ping. It’s like, “Hold on a sec­ond, he doesn’t look like he can do what he’s do­ing”. It’s class. Even­tu­ally he’ll lose a game and we’ll pick him up and dust him off and send him out again.’

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