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VIDEO – Lancaster identifies England advantage in white shirt heritage

09 October 2013

  • Stuart Lancaster on the importance of England's long association with a white shirt
  • New Canterbury kit launched at Bruntcliffe School in Morley, part of the All Schools programme


England launched the new Canterbury home shirt at Bruntcliffe School in Morley, West Yorkshire, and for Stuart Lancaster it was an opportunity to revisit this country’s long association with the white shirt.

A traditionalist and assiduous student of the history of the game, the England Head Coach believes his players can reap a performance advantage from an appreciation of the heritage of the shirt.

Lancaster, who reintroduced shirt presentations on the eve of Test matches, has been working on ways to construct a defined English identity for his side and believes the shirt is an important building block.

“We’ve done quite a lot of work over the last six months on the culture and identity of the team and trying to grow that,” said Lancaster, who will have been in charge of the national side for two years next January. 

“We want to build on that, we want to tap into previous players who played for England and the history of the shirt. It’s an iconic shirt, white is our colour and we wanted to make sure we showed that in the kit.

England players celebrate Brad Barritt's try in the record victory over New Zealand at Twickenham

Photo: Getty Images

“Rugby is a game played with skill, power and pace but it is also played with emotion. It’s a combat sport and you need to get yourself in a mind set to go out there and work hard and put your body on the line for your teammates, those who have supported you, for the shirt and for the country. All those things wrapped together can make a big, big difference to a performance, no doubt.”

As a man judged by results, Lancaster is understandably interested in any marginal gains which might make the difference on the pitch. England’s humbling in the red-clad Millennium Stadium, when emotion and intensity poured down from the stands as his side went for the RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam last March, lingers long in the memory.

Lancaster believes “the atmosphere and the environment in Cardiff raised Wales’ level of performance” that evening, and with three internationals at Twickenham Stadium this autumn, he wants a vociferous crowd to wear white and roar his side on.

Australia, Argentina and New Zealand come to Twickenham on successive Saturdays from November 2 and Lancaster said: “With three home internationals coming, you want to maximise that home-field advantage.

“Every time we’ve been at Twickenham, the crowd have been 100 per cent behind the team. We saw how powerful it was when we beat the All Blacks – the crowd behind the team and the lift it gave.”

Stuart Lancaster with Bruntcliffe School pupils at a Canterbury kit design workshop

Photo: Getty Images

Lancaster, a former school teacher, is also mindful of his central role as a custodian of rugby in England and taking the kit launch to a school was an opportunity to reinforce his commitment to keeping the elite and grassroots game connected.

Bruntcliffe is in the second year of its rugby programme after being one of the first participants in the RFU’s All Schools scheme, which aims to make rugby a sustainable part of life in previously non-rugby playing state schools.

Each establishment in the All Schools programme gets to design and play in their own bespoke Canterbury shirt and, after having a go at crafting his own after a spell back in the classroom, Lancaster added: “From 100 odd schools who are part of the All Schools programme, Bruntcliffe won the chance to host it by demonstrating what the core values of rugby are about.

“It’s great for them, it’s great for Morley and it’s great to have the kit launch at a school like this. It’s not too far away from where I taught at Kettleworth High School and it has a similar feel to it.

“The more schools that can play rugby, the more players will go to clubs and more they’ll grow the game. And if not growing the playing pool directly, they’ll become supporters of the game. We want to grow England Rugby so that we're a respected and well-supported team.”