Stuart Lancaster has relinquished his role as England head coach by mutual consent following a disastrous showing at the recent Rugby World Cup. Despite possessing high hopes going into the tournament, the 2003 winners suffered the ignominy of becoming the first host nation in history to exit before the quarter-final stage following consecutive Pool A defeats to Wales and Australia at Twickenham.
In a statement released by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) on 11 November confirming the decision, he said: "I am obviously extremely saddened to finish the way we did in this World Cup and to step down from the role. As I have always said, I ultimately accept and take responsibility for the team's performance and we have not delivered the results we all hoped for during this tournament.
"I did, however, want to take part in the review to ensure I understood the views of others before making a decision. The reality is that, while many aspects of the review were very positive, we didn't achieve success on the field when it mattered and we all have to take responsibility for that but me especially as head coach.
"I took on the role in difficult circumstances and it has been a huge challenge to transition the team with many hurdles along the way. However, I am immensely proud of the development of this team and I know that there is an incredibly strong foundation for them to progress to great things in the future.
"We have played some excellent rugby and it was always going to be tough to get the right level of experience into them in time for 2015. It is a young group of players with the huge majority available for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, where I believe their recent experience will make them genuine contenders."
Lancaster's decision to stand down comes just six days before a five-man review panel including Ben Kay, Sir Ian McGeechan and RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie are due to present their findings concerning the reasons behind England's latest World Cup disappointment. Nick Mallett, Jake White, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones and highly-regarded Australia boss Michael Cheika are just a handful of the names to have been linked with the England job in recent weeks.
Ritchie, who will lead the search for Lancaster's successor moving forward, added: "'The Rugby World Cup was hugely disappointing for everyone associated with the England team and the subsequent review into the team's performance was always intended to be extremely comprehensive, which it has been. Stuart has been fully involved and has given feedback as well as the other coaches, players, management and a wide variety of people from around the game. Following the review, Stuart and I met, where we agreed that he should step down as head coach. This was subsequently ratified by the RFU Board."
Having been handed the reins on a full-time basis in March 2012 following a period as interim head coach in which he helped to calm the waters of English rugby following the ugly fall-out from the country's disastrous experience at the World Cup in New Zealand, Lancaster, who was contracted along with backroom team Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt until 2020, oversaw a total of 28 Test wins, 17 defeats and one draw from 46 matches as well as four successive second-place finishes at the Six Nations.