Dan Carter: what it takes to be a world champion

Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

And so the best team won. The All Blacks are Rugby Union World Champions. One side of the Tasmanian Sea this morning will be bleary-eyed folks going to work, on the other, there will probably be a grumpy silence. Let’s go to the beach.

When it comes to sport, New Zealand is not particularly good at many things. In the last four summer and winter Olympics, New Zealand, with a population of just 4.5 million, won just 32 medals. Australia won 199, Great Britain 178. When Rob Waddell won New Zealand’s only gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Australians remarked that the only sport New Zealand was any good at was a sport that involved sitting down going backwards.

But they are awesome at rugby, and for the third time, the All Blacks are the Rugby Union World Champions, with their 34-17 victory over Australia. This was a clash between the two best teams in the tournament, and despite the fierce rivalry, the final was played in tremendous spirit amid great mutual respect.

New Zealand held off a fierce Australian comeback to win a thrilling game and become the first team to retain their title. Wonderful tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma’a Nonu gave the All Blacks a 21-3 lead early in the second half before David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani struck back. But when Beauden Barrett sprinted away on to Ben Smith’s clearing kick in the final minutes history was secured.

It was a great game, marked by the insistent quality of New Zealand’s attack and a rousing Australian comeback during the second half that ought to merit some kind of asterisk in the history books. Australia’s obduracy did them great credit, they kept their pride but the overall task, as so often against these peerless opponents, was beyond them.

Dan Carter was outstanding from the outset, under a ferocious Wallaby assault, landing 19 points from his immaculate kicking, as they were tested to the limit. His first curling over a testing penalty from out wide for 3-0 set the scene for a man-of-the-match performance.

Australia targeted Carter, Scott Sio lucky to escape a yellow card for smashing him back with a late hit to his ribs, and Sekope Kepu giving away a penalty for a high tackle to his jaw, that Carter popped over to retake the lead.

Ma’a Nonu’s fine try looked to have put the All Blacks out of sight, but the Wallabies came back, but after missing the 2011 World Cup final through injury, this was the perfect ending for world rugby’s most perfect 10. Carter could not dream of a better finale to his 12-year, 112-cap All Black career.

Carter, who is of Māori descent, has played since the age of five in the fly-half role, starting with Southbridge Rugby Club in the South Island of New Zealand. His great uncle was Canterbury and New Zealand half back Bill Dalley, a member of the 1924–25 Invincibles. On 16 November 2013, Carter became the fifth All Black to gain 100 caps.

He has a World Cup winner’s medal from 2011, but it was a consolation, his injury in the pool stages turned him into water-boy in the knock-out stages. This time he would not be denied. His peerless place kicking helped establish a 21-3 lead, which seemed to have secured the world title once again. When the Wallabies turned that around in eleven second-half minutes with Ben Smith off for a yellow card, Carter took over.

Forty metres out, a drop goal struck with a precision from his left foot, as if he were back in the field at his parents’ house in Southbridge, taking aim at the homemade posts his father stuck up to save any more windows in the house from being smashed.

Then, five minutes later, a penalty from further out still. That he converted Beauden Barrett’s breakaway try at the death with his less favoured right foot was remarkable less for the skill of it and more for the fact that it may have been the first self-indulgent act of his twelve years in an All Blacks jersey.

Carter is surely the finest fly-half the world has seen, and not just for his scoring prowess, he also made more tackles than any other player from either side in the final too.

With 15 minutes to go there were just four points in it, but his nerveless long-distance drop-goal and penalty snatched back control. This was his game, in a team of champions. Close up shots as he prepared to take his kicks, under pressure like we can’t imagine, showed a calmness in his face and a determination in his brown eyes, an inner belief and resolution. You just knew that he was going to knock those kicks over.

There was the control when all around was chaos: the right options with hands and voice in his own half. Carter was a calm presence, the rock around which their waves of runners broke, some splitting inside, others out to his right. He sent pop passes one way and fast, long, flat ones the other. After his drop-goal, he didn’t celebrate, he simply shouted to Nonu and Smith: next job, next job.

Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is an option. Believe you can and you’re halfway there, as the saying goes. The worst enemy to Carter on the field would have been his own self-doubt, but I recall an interview once where he said, I do not believe in taking the right decision on my kicking, I take a decision and make the kick right. There’s something about his temperament that is just perfect for test rugby.

More than that, his last game was a thing of artistry and guile. His all-round game was superb, his game management top notch. He made sure the All Blacks played in all the right places and, even when things were getting tense when the Wallabies were on fire in the middle of the second half, it was Carter who showed nerves of steel. But it was in those final ten minutes when he was Dan Carter as everyone will want to remember him.

He took his time with the penalty, went through his routine like always and then struck the ball perfectly. It was always going over. It had the legs, just. It had the distance and it was then, with the All Blacks ten points ahead and with seven minutes left, that a nation could believe they were going to win.

We applaud champions, knowing that we would never have been able to do what they’ve achieved. There is something deeply captivating about exceptional individual performance in sport. The fascination for extraordinary as we think of the champions who stand proud on the podium, with their medals and their nation’s anthem ringing in their ears, is about human dignity as well as human achievement. For me it’s about saluting the person.

Dan Carter is a world champion for sure. How can we summon up the true character of the champion ourselves, and take this into our business? Here are some of those characteristics. How many of these statements also describe you and your business life?

Success comes to those with passion to strive Striving is more than simply being competitive, it is an attitude that illustrates that the individual is as much competing with himself as with the challenge, or others in the same race. What sets Carter apart from the rest is his relentless passion and uncompromising pursuit of extraordinary endeavour. Carter masters his mental game, which became his competitive edge, he persists in spite of fatigue, tenacious in discovering his own style of beating the elements.

Authentic and inquisitive Champions are aware of their strengths and limitations, there are no pretentions. Such authenticity bolsters the courage in taking on lofty goals, but also in dealing with their true selves. They always seek the new frontier, pushing the boundaries, refusing to accept the status-quo. They begin every day hoping to learn something new, always searching for new insights, for original thinking, for something that makes them better.

Application, hard-work and discipline That is more than just the hours you put in, it is the discipline to set aside other things and concentrate hard on your own development. It is about focus and single mindedness. It is not just about deciding to work an extra hour, it’s about deep thinking, about getting down to the core of what you are trying to achieve. It is about knowing in your heart, when something is not good enough and can and should be better. Notice that this is self-discipline. Past a certain point, you and only you can provide that intensity of will.

Courage. No champion is without courage. It may be of mind or body. When things are in the balance, when you cannot be sure, when others are uncertain or hesitate, when the very point is that the outcome is in doubt that is when a champions’ mental toughness lets them step forward. The courage lies not in acting without fear, but in acting despite fear.

Optimism Carter expresses an ability to reframe adversity – missing the 2007 and 2011 finals – as an opportunity for achievement. Champions consider adversity as indicative of the merit of the pursuit and thus welcome it. They reveal that beyond physical skill and training, there exists a champion mind set. They all have distinct cognitive and emotional make-up that allows them to relentlessly push themselves on their quest.

Train like a champion No matter how talented an athlete, they train to improve their skills and push peak levels of performance. Continuing to dream is part of this, they never stop striving for that next big result. Planning to compete at the highest level, and putting in a shift, high-performance athletes plan out their training schedules in advance to make sure they reach specific performance goals.

Don’t settle for ‘Good enough’, use pressure to improve your focus Most business folk lack the same level of mental discipline that Carter has in abundance. One of the risks for businesses is being tolerant of sub-optimal performance. In business, average performance is often tolerated. The choice is yours – average work, yields average results. Chose your attitude and get the right mind set.

Most businesses aren’t physically demanding by nature, usually it’s about our mental and emotional state of mind. Success comes from finding a way to tap into your inner strength, your core values, your passion and your attitude. It’s what you’ll need to put one foot in front of another, and to keep going. Remember, every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.

Carter’s success is down to his perseverance – it’s the hard work he does after he gets tired of doing the hard work he already did. I’m sure the words of Dick Fosbury will resonate with him: When my body got tired, my mind said this where winners are made; when my mind got tired, my heart said this is where champions are made.

Life has a unique perspective. Along the way, various landing pages, trials and tribulations will offer themselves up. It’s self-belief that determines your direction and ultimately success. On the rugby pitch and in life, it’s not how often you’re knocked down but how many times you get up that makes the difference.

The victory was the more sweeter for New Zealand given that a number of their squad were playing in their final All Blacks match, Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith will all move to France, thus ending their international careers, McCaw will probably retire, while prop Tony Woodcock and hooker Keven Mealamu will retire completely from the game.

There should be sadness. Instead, there could be only celebration – of a champion team full of champion individuals like Dan Carter. This is how it ends, then, for the finest fly-half in the game. Man of the match in the World Cup final, an All Black’s victory, and a contribution of 19 points.

Richie McCaw: thinking correctly under pressure

New Zealand reached their second Rugby World Cup final in a row at the weekend due to their experience, discipline and composure in the second-half, beating South Africa 20-18 in an epic slog in Saturday’s semi-final. The All Blacks were five points behind at half-time with a man in the sin-bin as four penalties from Handre Pollard cancelled out Jerome Kaino’s early try.

As coach Steve Hansen said, We had moments where we had to keep that self-belief. Then in those moments it’s just about the process. It becomes the norm. It’s a learned skill and self-belief is massive.

The All Blacks, aiming to become the first nation to retain the Webb Ellis Cup, trailed 12-7 at the break. They returned to the pitch five minutes early for the start of the second half, and captain Richie McCaw led an on-pitch discussion in a team huddle. The television cameras showed it was an intense talk from McCaw, animated, direct and composed. McCaw’s eyes were filled with passion, concentration and a facial expression that simply said, follow me. It was one of the most important team talks of his life.

Immediately Hansen’s team tightened up, as the immaculate Dan Carter’s 45th-minute drop-goal rolled momentum in their favour to set up a brutal second-half encounter. The game swung in the 20 minutes after half-time, New Zealand beginning that period five points down and with Kaino off the pitch, but ending it five points up and with Springbok wing Bryan Habana in the sin-bin instead.

A five-point deficit at the break, nine penalties conceded, a key man in the sin-bin. All other teams would have worried at that point. Most would have felt a little shiver of panic: we’re not going to mess this up, are we? What happens if this stays the same and we can’t knock them backwards? This All Blacks collective is not most teams. When you have lost just three games in four years, panic and self-doubt is not your immediate thought.

So it was once again. Out they came, into the torrential rain and cold of a proper English autumn evening, and went at the problem with the poise of men who simply knew what they had to do. The psychology and discipline of thinking was again summed up by Hansen: We talked about it at half-time. We talked about keeping composure and talked about winning the first 10 minutes. With 14 men.

Dan Carter’s decision-making and kicking was once again peerless, his curling a conversion through the downpour and over the posts from an angle that offered him almost nothing was the moment for me that you knew this was their day. In that twenty-minute period from 40 minutes to 60 the game was wrestled away from the Springboks.

The second-half was a masterpiece of the little things done well, the Forwards hanging on to a slippery ball under pressure, Backs running intelligently, sucking in one defender and drawing another before off-loading with a simple, safe pass to hands.

And the composure in the crescendo, still the right decisions made with the noise deafening in the stadium and the anxiety of the occasion ramping up as the Springboks clawed their way back to within two points.

It was the decision-making, following good habits and knowing what to do under pressure that showed clearly the All Blacks were the masters of their game. When Carter chased back half the length of the pitch to snuff out the threat created by De Allende’s sharp kick deep into the All Blacks half, never appearing to hurry even with Pietersen bearing down on the ball, not diving on it in desperation or hacking it straight into the stands but clipping it away on the bounce as if the pitch were dry and this just another game, that made you realise they are champions.

It was there in the Forwards punching their united physicality into the Springboks’ guts with perfectly-timed sets and drives in scrums, rucks and then mauls to dissipate any South African momentum. And it was there in the final 10 minutes, the lead still so slender, never losing possession, never ceding territory, never giving a sniff. Just thinking correctly under pressure.

New Zealand made sure the last twelve minutes passed with no further scoring, and a shot at becoming the first three-time champions. Under slate-grey skies and in unrelenting rain, with just two points between the sides as they went toe to toe for the final 10 minutes.

Having spent half-time regrouping in the rain under the grip of McCaw, they showed grit to go alongside the guile that has led many to call this All Blacks side the best ever. Great teams have to come from behind sometimes. Great teams need great captains.

Everyone faces those pinch-point situations when the heat is on – from making a critical decision in-the-moment at a meeting, to keeping a cool head in the rugby scrum – those times when you need to function correctly under pressure. The reality is that most people fail in extreme situations. They choke, they get stage fright and their astute, high-wire decision-making skills fail them.

The All Blacks regrouped at the start of the second half due to captain Richie McCaw’s mentality and call to arms. Regarded as the greatest rugby player of all time, his debut for New Zealand was against Ireland in 2001, aged just 20, and despite his first touch of the ball resulting in a knock-on, he was awarded Man of the Match. He was subsequently selected as New Zealand’s first choice openside flanker for the 2003 World Cup and became a regular selection, only missing a few games due to reoccurring concussions.

In 2006 he was appointed All Blacks captain. After defeat in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals, 18-20 versus France, his captaincy came under criticism. It was New Zealand’s earliest exit from a World Cup. An emotional McCaw could not hide his disappointment at the after-match press conference: If I knew the answers we would have sorted it out. We will be thinking about it for a long time. He was accused of not inspiring his team, lacking the ability to change when plan A was not working and not providing leadership on the field.

But he learnt from his mistakes and during the 2011 World Cup tournament, McCaw inspired his teammates and the nation, playing on virtually one leg after suffering a debilitating ankle injury. On 23 October 2011, McCaw led his team to the World Champions title, beating France 8–7 in the final.

In 2012, after the win against South Africa, McCaw became the first rugby union player to win 100 tests – while having only lost 12 games. McCaw, quite incredibly, achieved 100 test wins out of 112 tests played, a staggering 89.28% winning ratio – he has been on the winning side in 9 out of every 10 tests he has played. He’s also the most capped All Blacks captain.

McCaw’s record is as astounding as it is remarkable. His leadership is unquestionable, his playing ability is envied and judged to be the epitome of an openside flanker. McCaw is always there in the mix, leading by being there right on the shoulder of a teammate in the thick of the action.

Being captain in the frenetic and unrelenting pace of international rugby, demands discipline, clarity and focus as we saw at the weekend, so what are McCaw’s key attributes and traits as captain that we can take as leadership attributes in today’s commercial environment?

Mental strength & emotional discipline The captain needs to remain focused and alert whilst thinking and making decision under pressure during a game, so that he makes the right decisions at the right time. This requires considerable mental fortitude.

Some decisions will not be clear-cut. It is during critical situations that your team will look to you for guidance and you may be forced to make a quick decision. As a leader, it’s important to be lucid. Don’t immediately choose the first or easiest possibility, and be emotionally disciplined. Fire in the belly, but ice in the brain is a useful maxim here.

Emotional discipline is important. As a role model, the example set by the captain must meet every expectation he has of the players. For example, if the captain becomes angry with the referee and constantly questions his decisions, then he cannot expect his players to accept refereeing decisions themselves. A loss of emotional control will affect timing, co-ordination and the ability to read the game.

A leader creates individuals and defines the team A team executes plays as a unit, they should function as one. The captain exerts the effort to organise, reminding teammates their respective roles in the team. He studies his teammates’ skills, he recognises what they are capable of doing and utilises his teammates’ abilities. He ensures the right people are in the right seats on the bus.

Leading the charge from the front is one aspect of leadership, but success is ultimately down to teamwork so it is essential to creating an organised and efficient business team via delegation. If you don’t learn to trust your team with your vision, you might never progress to the next stage. It’s a fine balance, but one that will have a huge impact on the productivity of your business.

A leader should be visible to the team. Visibility clearly shows that you care and are approachable, it enables you to always know what is going on and it lets teammates know that you are ready to join in and help if needed, and be part of the team – but delegate, don’t hog the remote control!

The leader creates the team spirit A team can only work as one effectively if they maintain an environment free from individual tensions. Your ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to your success. Even the greatest leader cannot lead in a vacuum.

Harnessing and channelling the energies of a coherent and dedicated team is the only true path to success. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

Positive mind set and winning attitude: lead by example Morale is linked to success, and it’s your job as the team leader to instill motivation by positive energy and attitudes, and a winning belief, especially when times are tough. A leader is a dealer in hope – keep the belief.

Good teams have to come from behind sometimes. They know what to do. There may be times where the future looks rough and things aren’t going to plan. Part of your job as a leader is to put out fires, assure everyone that setbacks are natural and get focus on the bigger picture. As the leader, by staying calm and confident, you will help keep the team feeling the same. Remember, your team will take cues from you. Inspiring your team to see the vision of successes to come is vital. As McCaw shows, a great leader’s courage to fulfil his vision comes from passion, not position.

This wonderful All Blacks team has plenty about them in terms of talent, skills and tactical nous, but so much more besides in terms of mental toughness, resilience and the ability to turn up when it matters as they showed in the semi-final. It is undoubtedly in them all, but in that moment of potential crisis, it took McCaw’s leadership to remind them and give them a clear head. He was utterly relentless against the Boks at the weekend. When it comes to drive and desire, his levels are off the scale.

Nothing gives you more advantage in the heat of competition as to remain unruffled and think clearly. Composure is the product of an ambitious mentality envisioning the outcome we would aspire. It requires persistence, vision, self-belief and patience. Being persistent requires constant thinking and developing an agile plan to accomplish our goals as the situation changes – a plan doesn’t require detailed steps, rather it guides our actions to ensure we are always progressing towards accomplishing our goals.

As in sport, it’s the same in business, the ability to remain composed is vital, the capacity to make the right decisions when under pressure differentiates leaders in good times and bad. Composure is a telling factor in performance whether it contributes to the scoreboard or the bottom-line. Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm, but in the frenzy of the storm, holding your nerve, keeping focus and stopping the blood rushing to the head enable you to put your training into practice.

I’d love to know what McCaw said at half-time as the team stood in the pouring rain, a man down and losing 7-12. I’m pretty sure the four points of his leadership attributes I’ve detailed above were vital elements of his call to action. McCaw shows a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Their responsibility is getting all the players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.

Next Saturday afternoon, 4pm, put yourself in that dressing room, as the referee knocks on the door, game time gentlemen. The World Cup Final. For Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu, next week’s showpiece final against Australia may signal the end of the international road for all four of them as they retire at their peak. They will all look to McCaw as he leads the team out. I’m sure he will set the call: make it count, and take control where it matters most: inside your own head.

We sit in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

England completed their fixtures on Saturday and exited the World Cup. It was a massive let down and a glazed Stuart Lancaster looks as if he doesn’t know what’s hit him. The previous Saturday’s painful 13-33 defeat to Australia, three tries to one and a 20-point winning margin, was a fair reflection of the two teams’ performances on the night, and followed the previous week’s 25-28 capitulation to Wales.

The Group of Death was always going to yield a high profile eviction. It may yet prove terminal to Lancaster’s coaching position. He has been jeered and ridiculed in the subsequent scrutiny and knee-jerk calls for his head on the spikes outside Traitors Gate. It’s been a cruel and unwarranted treatment for a decent man, a miserable way for four years of optimism, planning and dedication to come crashing down around him.

Did we buckle under the pre-tournament expectations, did we lack the mental toughness for the ‘winner take all’ battles, or simply, did the better sides beat us? England’s failure poses questions about the coach, captain and tactics, and the very quality of English rugby, after our elimination from our once-in-a-lifetime home World Cup.

Returning to Manchester Saturday morning having attended the Friday night All Blacks v Tonga game in Newcastle, I eyed with envy the blokes in the golden Wallabies jerseys crossing my path at Piccadilly Station on their jaunty journey to the Pool A decider with Wales at Twickenham. I felt passionately we’d make the final and have a do with the All Blacks.

On Saturday we showed glimpses of a potentially bright future – Jack Nowell – one of six England players making their first appearances of the World Cup – Henry Slade, Dan Care, Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph showed what they could do, but often England fumbled instead of popping over through gaps.

When England did break through, the game settled into a pattern of carelessness and imprecision, as we have all tournament, labouring to clear out at the breakdown and so finding ourselves hemmed in, struggling to take flight and soar, seemingly lacking the slickness and adroitness needed to win at the highest level.

But when you look at it in the cold light of day we were beaten by two sides who were ranked higher than us so there may have been an expectation the team might have struggled. You have to look at it objectively rather than having emotions running and drawing the wrong conclusion.

Winning at Under-20 level, as England Saxons have done in recent years, is one thing, but we’ve had five defeats in the past 12 months in the big games: Ireland away, and South Africa, New Zealand, Wales and Australia at home. In this oft-quoted ‘results-based business’, that sequence represents serious questions about our mentality, capability and leadership. The fifteen-minute defence by Australia v Wales, when down to thirteen men, showed the gap.

The selection, the tactics, the captain, the balance. Too slow in thought and deed. Regret and sombre soul searching for what might have been, or baying for blood and wholesale changes? My view of Lancaster is that he is a decent man, meticulous with detail, good with young players, but struggling to get the best from the teams in their defining contests. For now the feeling is emotional rather than analytical. A return to the everyday routine, no more England games.

We seem to have lost a bit of what makes England good: the audacity and the tenacity of having a real crack. When a team doesn’t perform to expectations, it is clearly reasonable to question the leader, but is it all Lancaster’s fault? Plainly not. Before the tournament we knew that England lacked one World XV player, and the absence of sufficient quality when competing at the highest level makes life very tough sooner or later. So why the undignified rush to queue up and berate Lancaster?

Lancaster has crafted a clear long-term talent development strategy as head of elite player development and coach of the Saxons, producing a generation of young players like never before, but they haven’t hit the mark as anticipated. When young talent doesn’t succeed as expected, should you simply throw in the towel and start again, or perhaps be more reflective – it’s not all about why England lost, why did Australia win? Australia was outstanding on consecutive Saturday nights against Wales and us.

Yet after all the hope, it wasn’t even close. The sooner we acknowledge the Wallabies were technically, tactically and individually better than England, then the hullabaloo for recriminations will be more considered and a more sensible tone of voice emerge as to what to do next. After all, no one bemoaned the preparation, squad picks or management before the competition.

The currency of sport is simple, binary and stark. Winning is what matters. Lancaster’s England side fell short. The hanging, drawing and quartering of Lancaster and his fellow coaches has been under way for over a week, without any reference to the potential remaining. England must avoid being too hasty in the final analysis, I’m refusing to get carried away in the inquest and I will not jump on the Lancaster-must-go bandwagon.

I confess, I have soft spot for Lancaster, I’m an advocate of his strategy and approach to long-term development of youth, but the unrelenting calls for change? Enough, let’s reflect a little.

Talent Pipeline

Lancaster has overseen the development of a talent pipeline like we’ve never had before. We potentially have an unbelievable group of players. Twenty-four of the squad were in their first World Cup, the majority will be around in 2019, if not 2023.

Ultimately, a lot comes down to players maturing, developing and getting more experience. Lancaster tried to develop the team for 2015 but ultimately that’s not happened. Australia had 750 caps in their starting team and we had 450. We can go through the whys and wherefores of that, but the fact that we had so many players over 30 in the 2011 squad means he had to focus on youth.

We have been successful in the U-20s World Cup for a reasonable amount of time. If we continue to develop, England will have a far better chance of winning in Japan in 2019 than they had on home soil. By then, the likes of George Ford, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson and Joe Launchbury could and should be among the best players in the sport. That is in no small part due to the current coach.

Build on the experience

World champions New Zealand came into the tournament with an average 48 caps per player and with a total of 269 tries between them. South Africa average 42 caps and 220 tries; Australia, 40 caps and 191. England averaged 25 caps and had a grand total of 67 tries. It showed.

As you looked around the pitch at the end of the game on Saturday, there was at a side with youthful potential but lacking a defining style and the experience to cope. Subsequently we’ve seen the alternative argument being played out in the starkest fashion, the clash between the pressing need to pick a team that can win the next match, and the expectation to create a side that might thrive in the future.

At the end of the 2011 World Cup, stalwarts like Mark Cueto, Lewis Moody and Jonny Wilkinson retired. We’ll be a lot more resilient for what we’ve come through. The team have had lessons in the harshest of environments.

I see good young players who have been well developed by good coaches in a good environment. Small margins and big consequences are the reality in games that count. Lancaster will look back on the experience of the World Cup. Those experiences will make him a better coach. You learn more from defeats and failures than the successes.

Talent pool

Ultimately, England were technically below par in many areas at a hugely competitive World Cup where almost all other teams are raising their game. Fiji and Japan have shown the smaller nations are catching up with the big beasts.

What happened to England’s forwards when collective push came to shove? The scrum did not do as well as expected. Against Australia, England conceded five scrum penalties to a team they mangled up front less than a year ago. They were forced to replace both first-choice props with less than an hour gone.

Coaching can only develop skills and talent to far. Lancaster went into this World Cup still unsure of his best XV. He picked a rugby union novice in Sam Burgess and selected a young talent in Henry Slade who started one game. A winning team cannot be built on such foundations, yes our selections weren’t consistent, yet perhaps the reality is that other teams have more skills and talent.

Continuity of leadership

Clive Woodward endured a rough first World Cup in 1999 and was roundly condemned by people who would later reinvent themselves as his greatest supporters. He was retained, largely because no one was kicking down the door to replace him, and he duly laid hands on the Webb Ellis Trophy four years later.

When the All Blacks were sent packing at the quarter-finals in the 2007 tournament, coach Graham Henry was deemed a figure of ridicule. Again, he was reappointed and led the All Blacks to victory four years later.

Martin Johnson stepped down as England manager in November 2011 after a World Cup quarter-final defeat by France. I thought that was wrong. He hadn’t got experience and would have grown a great deal.

Lancaster is a good man and has produced a side with good values. All leaders who have been in their job for a while have rollercoasters. Those times are extremely difficult.

Too often we burn our leaders because of public opinion and media opinion, rather than informed judgement. Continuity of leadership is vital if you want to produce something special. They know where they have been and where they are at and what they need to do to get better. If you bring a new person in, it starts all over again and takes someone new two or three years to get their feet under the table.

Set realistic success targets

Truly, England was never going to win the 2015 World Cup despite home advantage. We have to acknowledge that the gap between the Southern and Northern Hemisphere teams has grown bigger, they have better, more talented players than we do. That’s the yardstick and challenge to throw down to Lancaster and for him to continue in his role for a further four years, nurturing and developing the talent he has created. Judge him then.

Along the way to 2019, we must target immediate success as stepping-stones, in the Six Nations and on the 2016 summer tour to Australia. We have to set the goal of becoming the best team in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s win a Six Nations, win a Grand Slam as a near-term target.

This is not to suggest that things should remain the same, there needs to be a proper review as to why England failed to achieve more, but we must think very carefully before jettisoning Lancaster, if we accept we have the nucleus of a good side, his knowledge of them as people as well as players, is invaluable.

 Individuals in a team game

Mike Brown has set the standard for the review of our performance, with a pithy appraisal of where the England’s players stand in the global pecking order. Asked for the principal lesson he would take from the tournament he said: Individually we need to all strive to be the best player in the world in our position. Looking at the New Zealanders, most of them would get in a World XV, and that’s what I’ll be aiming to do, because at the moment, if you’re honest, which one of our players would be in a World XV?

If we focus on individual performance, it will come together as a XV on the pitch.

One of the biggest causes of the knee-jerk calls for Lancaster’s dismissal is the hell-bent need to ‘get it right.’ We strive for perfection and success, and when we fall short, we feel worthless. What we don’t seem to realise is that striving for success and being willing to put ourselves out there is an accomplishment within itself, regardless of how many times we fail.

Share, listen, reflect and learn. England must avoid being too hasty in the final analysis and submit to the backlash. Focus on progress rather than perfection and on how far we’ve come rather than on how far we have left to go. Long-term thinking in a short-term world. As Einstein said, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. We sit in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.