England Rugby’s Head Coach, Stuart Lancaster, has stepped down after England’s early World Cup exit. So, the question on every rugby fan’s mind is: ‘who will be England’s next Head Coach?’
Formerly ‘Director of Rugby’ at Leeds Carnegie, Lancaster joined the England set-up in 2008, becoming Head Coach in 2011 (after England’s controversy ridden World Cup campaign that year). Now, after becoming the first sole host nation to have exited a World Cup in the Pool stages, England needs to find a new Head Coach.
Irishman Conor O’Shea has been ‘Director of Rugby’ at Aviva Premiership side, Harlequins, since 2010. Under his leadership Quins have qualified for the Premiership title play-offs three times, even winning the title in the 2011-12 season. O’Shea is a good pick for the traditionally forward-centric England squad as he tends to prioritise mobility and good offloads in the forwards – something I thought was lacking this World Cup. However, he does have no international experience and may be reluctant to become England Head Coach because of frequency they play Ireland in the Six Nations.
Aviva Premiership side Northampton Saints have had Jim Mallinder as Head Coach since 2007. With 4 years left on his contract Mallinder looks set to stay at Saints for a long time. However, he may jump at the opportunity to coach England. Formerly involved in England’s youth training academy, and England’s B team – the England Saxons, Mallinder does have some modest experience coaching at international level. What’s more, with Mallinder as Head Coach, Northampton have had a top 4 finish in the Premiership 6 out of 7 times. The only time Northampton have missed out on a top 4 finish under Mallinder was in 2008-09 (their first season under him in the Premiership) because he had just raised the recently relegated club out of National Division One in his first season there! Mallinder could be a good candidate for the England Head Coach job despite his modest international experience.
Former England and Great Britain Rugby League player, Mike Ford, began coaching Rugby Union in 2001. He is currently Head Coach at Aviva Premiership side Bath Rugby, who came second in the table last year, losing to Saracens in the Premiership final at Twickenham. Having experience in the England national set-up, as England’s defence coach between 2006 and 2007, Ford’s coaching track-record is good – with England making the 2007 Rugby World Cup final and conceding the least points in both the 2009 and 2010 Six Nations. However, Ford may be reluctant to take the role as he has a son in the England Squad, George Ford. Andy Farrell, England’s current defence coach, has come under intense scrutiny, and allegations of favouritism, for his son’s appearance in England’s World Cup squad. Ford, seeing the media scrutiny of his cross-code counterpart, may be reluctant to take a position as England Head Coach, especially because their sons both compete for the number 10 jersey.
Australia-born Eddie Jones’ Japan shocked the world in their opening game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup – defeating rugby giants, South Africa, 34-32 with a bold 80th minute try. Under Jones, the Brave Blossoms impressed with technical rugby and a strong scrum, becoming the first team in Rugby World Cup history to win 3 games in the Pool stages and not qualify for the quarter-finals. The former Australia (2001-05) and Japan (2012-15) Head Coach has spades of international experience and has said publicly that if he is approached he would consider an offer for the England role. Jones’ Japanese side showed what he could do as a coach with scarce resources and a small player-base. Imagine the fun he would have with the richest union in the world, and with the largest amount of players to choose from. However, Jones’ may now be unlikely for the England Head Coach position. He has just signed a coaching deal with South African club Stormers, meaning if the RFU wanted him they would have to buy him out of the full, newly-signed, contract.
A World Cup winning coach for the Springboks (2007), and twice awarded IRB Coach of the Year, Jake White knows how to win. Currently coaching French side Montpellier, the IRB Hall of Famer is surely on the RFU’s radar. After coaching the Durban based side The Sharks in the 2013-14 season, White announced his desire to return to coaching international rugby. This led to him joining the Tonga national side as technical coach for 3 test matches before moving to his current club Montpellier. If White is still interested in coaching international rugby England are surely going to consider him for Head Coach.
It’s unknown when the RFU will announce the new England Head Coach. If any of the five above are picked England will be in good hands. After England’s World Cup exit the RFU has held a review with a report due on 17 November – perhaps then we’ll find out who will be the new England Head Coach.
Images from: The Guardian, Sky Sports,The Telegraph and Wales Online.