World Cup-winner Ben Cohen insisted England had made a mistake after announcing Stuart Lancaster as their new full-time head coach on Thursday.
Lancaster received the job on a permanent basis after, as interim coach, guiding England to four wins out of five in the Six Nations following Martin Johnson’s post-World Cup resignation as team manager.
In the process, Lancaster – previously coach of England’s development Saxons, saw off a challenge for the full-time England job from vastly more experienced former South African and Italian coach Nick Mallett, with the likes of ex-Springbok supremo Jake White and New Zealand’s Wayne Smith dropping out of contention along the way.
Lancaster has been appointed to take England to the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.
But former winger Cohen, a member of the only England team to win the World Cup back in 2003, when Clive Woodward was coach and Johnson captain, told Talksport Radio: “I don’t think he is the right man.
“I think he is a man to keep around the squad for the future most definitely and have someone with a bit of experience around that who has maybe got experience in World Cups.
“Nick Mallett has got credentials coming out of his ears – he has got a great CV. And Wayne Smith – they are people who know how to react in tough times.”
England travel to South Africa for a three-Test series in June before facing the Springboks at Twickenham later this year, with Australia, world champions New Zealand and Fiji also coming to London to take on Lancaster’s side.
If England are not in the top four of the International Rugby Board rankings by December, they will miss out on a top seeding for the World Cup and that could harm their hopes of lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time.
“Let’s be frank. You look at the Six Nations as a honeymoon period and there are testing times to come ahead,” Cohen said.
“Yes, he will learn from every game and every situation he has and he has got four years to build up to the World Cup but you want someone who has got experience of managing through that. That’s how I see it.
“Hopefully, I am wrong and I will have egg on my face in 18 months’ time.
“Will he have the experience and will he have the coaching team he had in the Six Nations? I think it is going to be a watch-this-space scenario,” added Cohen, who retired last year.
However, Lancaster’s appointment was welcomed by current England players, with prop Alex Corbisiero saying on Twitter: “Right decision has been made.”
Five-eighth Danny Cipriani, who will be back in England contention next season when he joins Sale from the Melbourne Rebels, tweeted: “Congratulations to Stuart Lancaster. His passion is 2nd to none.”