- New ERtv series focuses on regional roots of players
- Stuart Lancaster: "Diversity is a real strength"
Stuart Lancaster believes his England team’s strength is founded in its diversity and that broad representation will allow the nation to identify with and get behind the team at next year’s home Rugby World Cup.
Introducing a series of England Rugby TV Rugby Roots features – investigations into England players’ formative rugby years in different parts of the country – the England Head Coach outlined his pride in building a team and culture with people from Devon to Durham and from London to Leicester.
“I think it’s a great representation of the way the sport is played in this country,” Lancaster said ahead of Test matches on successive Saturdays against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia.
Features to come on Geoff Parling, Jack Nowell and Courtney Lawes
“There are some sports that are dominant in certain areas but rugby union is played from Cornwall to Cumbria, and coming from Cumbria I can vouch for that. Having been to Cornwall I can vouch for that too.
“There are mini and junior sections that thrive everywhere from the North to the Midlands, to the South West to London, and as a consequence the players are inevitably going to be drawn from all four corners of the country.
“The variety of personalities and characters that come with different regions actually make it what it is. You have got lads who were born and bred in the North East mixing and socialising with lads who were born and bred in South London so that diversity in the squad, in character and personality, actually amounts to our ultimate strength.”
England Rugby TV packed its bags and headed out to speak to the parents, school teacher and rugby coaches of some of your current England crop – as well as the players themselves.
To gauge a sense of what rugby is like in different parts of the country, the team visited to Stockton-on-Tees for Geoff Parling, Newlyn in Cornwall for Jack Nowell and Northampton for Courtney Lawes.
To a man, the team are fiercely proud of where they come from and Lancaster is aware of the value contained within that as part of their emotional drivers on the field.
“It’s massive because ultimately you want to give back to where you come from,” he said. “All the players are very proud of their backgrounds, their schools, the rugby clubs where they played the game and ultimately where they come from. Their parents probably still live there.
“I know a lot of them try to get home when they can and if they can’t get home they’ll either send memorabilia which signifies their connection with the club they come from. I think that’s important and I think the players really value the support from their home town.”
"Ultimately, you want to give back to where you've come from"
Looking back to some of the memorable sporting events held in England – Euro ’96, the 2005 Ashes or the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games – there was an atmosphere of the event transcending sport and the nation uniting behind the team.
And with the World Cup kicking off in earnest with England against Fiji at Twickenham on September 15, 2015, Lancaster is well aware of the difference that could make to his team.
He added: “People should be able to connect with every player because the whole of the nation is represented. That connection should mean that people from the tiniest villages in Devon to the big cities across the country should get behind the team.”