Stuart Lancaster gave an interview to The Times recently where he broke down the personal effects of having a prominent role in the sporting world.
Former-England head-coach Stuart Lancaster’s last game in charge of his home-country’s national team came as they lost out to Australia 33-13 in the 2015 World Cup. This defeat made them the first host nation, English side and former champion of the tournament to fail to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The reaction was understandably one of pure shock and outrage and while Lancaster was not solely at fault, it became clear early on that he would receive the bulk of the criticism in the fallout.
Speaking to The Times in a recent exclusive, he broke down the effects that the considerable pressure and eventual anger had on him, his wife and his kids.
“[My daughter] is such a strong girl — she was 15 at the time — but I could hear her crying in the car going home. The family knew how much this meant to me, how much it meant to the country.
“Dan [my son] was back in Leeds that night, because he had a rugby game the following day, but I knew he would be feeling it too. I just wanted to protect them from it, but I felt powerless. I knew they would be wounded by what was coming. I said to Nina, ‘Please just look after the kids.’ ”
“My mum said something that stuck with me: ‘I know you are 45, but I just want to defend you from the attacks.’ I said, ‘Mum, it’s fine.’ But I could see the pain I was causing them. They were in their mid-seventies.
“It was awful for them to see me getting spoken about like that. That was weighing on my mind as the review was taking place.”
Of course, Lancaster lost his job within the RFU in November of 2015 and for a while, meandered around in a state of unemployment, rediscovering his roots in the game.
When Leinster finally did come calling, their eventual Champions Cup success this year managed to instil in him a sense of closure after an understandably disappointing time at the helm of England in the World Cup.
“I felt this deep happiness for my mum and dad. For Nina and the kids. Nina was there at the match with Dan, and they came down to get a photo with the trophy.
“I Facetimed Sophie, who was at home. She was so upset after the game that knocked England out of the World Cup, and that is something I will never forget.
“As I was walking down on the pitch, I held up the phone, looked at her, and said, ‘We did it!’ She just said, ‘I’m so proud of you, Dad.’ ”
It’s a side to sport in general that we often don’t fully acknowledge when letting our feelings be known about certain individuals. And while the glory of winning trophies on a huge scale is certainly clear and evident, the lows that many of these athletes and staff-members experience are often not highlighted to a sufficient degree.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena