Stuart Lancaster happy to place faith in Leeds Tykes to progress son Dan’s career

ALTHOUGH the halcyon days of Heineken Cup and Premiership rugby now seem like the distant past for Leeds Tykes, former England coach Stuart Lancaster still feels they can rise from the ashes in the not too distant future.

By Dave Craven
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 9th January 2021, 9:20 am
Stuart Lancaster, the Leinster senior coach. (Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images)
Stuart Lancaster, the Leinster senior coach. (Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images)

It is one of the reasons why he is happy to see his own son, the talented teenage fly-half Dan, remain with them even though they will be starting out in National One when league rugby eventually returns in 2021-22.

Lancaster senior, of course, has Leeds in his heart: he captained Tykes and became the first player in the club’s history to reach 100 appearances before switching to coaching and making their academy the envy of many from 2001.

He was integral in bringing future England internationals such as Danny Care, Rob Webber and Jordan Crane through the ranks at Headingley and – after Phil Davies left in 2006 – also went on to become Leeds head coach, helping them earn promotion and another stab at the top flight.

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In recent years, Lancaster, who lives in Weetwood, north Leeds and usually commuting to Dublin for his current job as Leinster head coach, has only been able to watch on helplessly as his erstwhile club fell away.

As Yorkshire – or Leeds – Carnegie they had spent the last 12 years trying to escape the Championship; they were successful last year but not in the manner they wanted, suffering another relegation, not promotion, after financially imploding.

Nevertheless, they are now in the process of returning to their roots having reverted to the Leeds Tykes name and starting again as a part-time operation in the third tier with Davies, the charismatic Welshman who led them in those glory days, back at the helm.

They had hoped to be playing some friendly fixtures under the new adapted Covid rules this month before training was put on hold again due to this week’s latest national lockdown.

Dan Lancaster in action for Leeds Carnegie against Bedford (Picture: Steve Riding)

Lancaster, who initially moved to the RFU as elite rugby director in 2008 but progressed to become England head coach from 2012 to 2015, has welcomed the club’s rebirth.

“Phil has been the ideal person to come in; he cares so much about the club,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“He has the ability to pull it together behind the scenes and there is more than enough history for people to want it to get back to the top end of English rugby over the course of the next three, four, five years.

“And I do still believe that is achievable; there’s a huge amount of talent in Yorkshire, two great universities on their doorstep plus a hell of a lot of good junior and senior clubs in the area.

West Park Bramhope Rugby Union Club on the oustskirts of North Leeds where Leeds Tykes will play in 2021. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

“It is just a case of going back to the original plan – which was to build a homegrown team that people can be proud to support.”

And that is where Leeds-born Lancaster junior comes in.

His name stood out when the England Under-20s squad was announced on New Year’s Day; amid so many Premiership forces, the teenager was the solitary player operating in the third tier to be chosen by the national head coach Alan Dickens.

England clearly think highly of him and, after debuting for Carnegie in 2019-20 and impressing with the maturity of his displays, it would have been understandable if he had been picked off by another Championship club for the forthcoming campaign.

Farewell for Stuart Lancaster in his final game as Leeds Tykes head coach (Picture: Steve Riding)

However, it was actually Premiership clubs, with the lure of their own academies, who showed most interest in Lancaster’s emerging talents. He is studying, though, at Leeds Beckett University, who have long-established links with Tykes, and his father explained: “There’s a lot to be said for lads going to university and playing men’s rugby.

“While it was a tough season last season, Dan learnt a lot being a young fly-half/inside centre in Yorkshire Carnegie’s team and he grew huge amounts. Another year of a similar level of rugby – plus hopefully some representative rugby – will, I think, be really good for a 19 year-old player in terms of his development.

“The coaches are good at both the university and the club – and more importantly, Covid-permitting, he’ll be playing rugby week in, week out in either BUCS games or National One.”

Lancaster, who knows how tough the selection process is, is chuffed by his son’s inclusion for England Under-20s.

He said: “Dan’s done great. It is great to see him and Leeds in with all those Premiership clubs.

“But I’m really pleased that he’s applied himself at university as well. He’s in the second year of a coaching studies degree and he’s still got a long way to go in his development and still has a lot of years left in the game hopefully.

“I’m a firm believer that if he works hard enough – if any player works hard enough – then you get your rewards in the long run.

“There’s lots of different ways to get to the top end of the game.”

And Lancaster junior certainly has time on his side. His dad added: “For comparison, lads of Dan’s age at Leinster are just in the sub-academy, not playing for Leinster first team. In Ireland, they bring them through a bit later, which I think is better as you have time to grow and mature; you don’t want to throw them in too early and get injured and broken.”

If things go to plan, then, the names Lancaster and Leeds could yet be appearing together in the top flight again.

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