‘No divided loyalties’ as Stuart Lancaster plots Racing’s downfall ahead of joining French giants

Things will go as usual this week, according to Stuart Lancaster, who at Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup opening will help his current club Leinster plan the fall of Racing 92, their future employer.

Ancaster wouldn’t be human if he didn’t, at least personally, have some mixed feelings about the task at hand, but his professionalism means he doesn’t give anything to the public.

By the time Lancaster packs his bags and sets off for the bright lights of Paris next summer, he will have spent seven seasons with Leinster.

His next assignment at Racing will see him working with a star-studded team, backed by a billionaire owner who isn’t afraid to loosen the purse strings.

Pulling Lancaster from Leinster was always going to be a tempting task, but few would argue that joining Racing would be an exciting new chapter for the 53-year-old and he won after his outstanding work alongside him. Leo Cullen.

“It’s not remotely awkward, trust me,” Lancaster says before joining Racing this weekend.

“I promised Racing for next year, but definitely not Racing for this year. Frankly, I watch them like Andrew Goodman, Robin McBryde and Leo. Because we’re playing with them and they’re third in the league.”

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There’s no doubt that Lancaster will have great insight into the Race, not only behind his analysis for Saturday’s game, but also how he looked deeply into the club before deciding to take over the Top 14 giants.

“You certainly have more information,” he smiles.

“You definitely watch them a little more because you know you’re playing them. I think Racing itself gives great value to Europe.

“They’re not like most of these French sides who don’t like to compete. Winning in Europe is definitely a huge goal. In 2018 we beat them and in 2020 they lost in the closed-doors Covid game Exeter.

“It’s a huge target for them and they pose a huge threat given how they play. Completely different from Ulster and on the other hand Gloucester is coming to RDS next week, probably more like Ulster.

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“In the next few weeks, real opposition will emerge. It’s an exciting block and I’m really enjoying it because obviously the international players are back and you can see the intensity and the pace in training.”

Apart from the fascinating subplot, this should be a heated match between two teams with their eyes set on lifting the trophy next May. Somewhere deep down, Lancaster couldn’t have asked for anything more than to plan a tactical demolition of Racing in France.

“I don’t think it’s about me at all,” she insists.

“For me, focus has nothing to do with it. It’s about helping Leinster get the best pool opportunity in Europe.

“As we learned a few years ago, we went to Toulouse and lost the first game. It’s hard to go to France and win the first game. It’s different in Le Havre.

The race moved the game to Le Havre for a concert held at the dazzling indoor La Defense Arena, but Lancaster underestimates the importance of the battle 200km from Paris.

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“Honestly, I don’t know (what effect it will have). The stadium looks amazing. I don’t know how many of the Parisian fans will be traveling or how supportive they are in that area but that’s a bit irrelevant because they will definitely have a lot of motivated players playing for them. Coaches will also be motivated, so it will be fine. I look forward to that.”

Lancaster doesn’t need any extra motivation going into such a big week, but if it does, Leinster’s senior coach is still plagued by disappointment from last season’s Champions Cup and URC.

It’s a huge motivator to leave Leinster at the top, leading the state to win silverware again.

“It’s definitely the biggest driver,” adds Lancaster.

“The European final is in Dublin for a start, and if you can get to the top of the pool I hope you’ll be at Aviva before that, so there’s all kinds of motivation there and this is last year’s peak. It still gets stuck in everybody’s throat.”


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