Stuart Lancaster’s move to Racing 92, where he will take over as head coach from the start of the 2023-24 season, is apparently a done deal. The website for the French daily sports paper, L’Equipe, has reported that the current Leinster senior coach signed a deal with the Parisian club yesterday.
The Irish Times had reported that Lancaster was due to have a video meeting with the Racing owner and president Jacky Lorenzetti, and the current head coach Laurent Travers, by the end of the week pending his move to Racing. Clearly that meeting will now merely serve to clarify both his role as head coach and that of Travers, who could move to the role of club president in order to allow Lorenzetti more time to focus on his many business interests, including his own wine company.
The former English head coach will see out the current campaign, his seventh and final season with Leinster, thus at least affording the province with ample time to find a replacement, and given his desire to become a head coach again he evidently won’t be moving to Paris unless he assumes that role with Racing.
While Ronan O’Gara made his first step into coaching with the Parisian club as an assistant, it will be the first time Lorenzetti and Racing have turned to an English-speaking head coach. By Top 14 standards, Racing have been a rare beacon of stability. There have effectively been only two previous reigns since 2007, namely Pierre Berbizier then, from 2013, the Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit duo, before the latter’s co-opting onto Fabien Galthie’s French coaching ticket left Travers in sole charge.
“According to our information, Lancaster signed his contract on Thursday,” L’Equipe wrote on Friday, and they have also speculated that Lancaster might bring his former Leinster sidekick Felipe Contepomi aboard the coaching ticket at Racing after next year’s World Cup, even though it is understood that the current Argentinian assistant coach is in line to take over from Michael Cheika after France 2023.
One of Lancaster’s other initial tasks at Racing will be to find an outhalf, as it has been confirmed that Finn Russell will not be extending his stay beyond the end of his current contract next June.
The appointment of Lancaster confirms that Lorenzetti’s ambitions for Racing remain as strong as ever, while also marking a new direction. “We do not forbid ourselves anything on the timing, nor on the nationality,” said Lorenzetti earlier this year.
There will also be a role for Travers, if less of a hands-on coaching role, given Lorenzetti also said: “It is Laurent who will choose his successor. And you don’t need to be a great cleric to understand that in the near future Laurent will be Chairman of our Management Board, while I will be Chairman of the Supervisory Board, responsible for setting the main strategic orientations.”