Eddie Jones has recently revealed that he will most likely leave his England head coach role after the Rugby World Cup in 2019, so who are the leading candidates to replace him should he go? We pick five potential replacements.
5) Steve Borthwick
Former Bath, Saracens and English lock Borthwick moved straight into coaching before the conclusion of his playing career, working in a player-coach position at Saracens before becoming forwards coach with Eddie Jones’ Japan.
Although he agreed to become Bristol’s new forwards coach after the World Cup last year, after a bitter contractual dispute between the club and the RFU, Borthwick joined up with the Australian once more as part of Jones’ new-look backroom staff.
Even though Borthwick does not have the years of coaching experience as some other candidates, he is obsessed with improving himself as a coach and has a pretty impressive record in his fledging career.
The ex-England lock will also be part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team for the Lions tour in the summer of 2017. With the progress he is making, could Borthwick be the perfect man to step up to coach the team he once captained?
4) Paul Gustard
Former Leicester, London Irish and Saracens flanker Gustard was given a coaching position at Saracens under then Director of Rugby Eddie Jones, before working with Brendan Venter as defence and forwards coach.
It was his work with Saracens that led to the Australian head coach appointing Gustard to be in charge of England’s defence at the start of the year. England’s impressive defence has been at the heart of many of their victories in 2016, including beating Argentina with only 14 men on the field for all but 4 minutes of the match.
Like Borthwick, Gustard is a man who is constantly striving to improve as a coach and could well be in the mix to replace Jones as head coach come 2019.
3) Rob Baxter
The Exeter Chiefs head coach has been in charge of the Aviva Premiership club since 2009 and in his first season guided the team into the Premiership.
Since then the team has gone from strength to strength, reaching its first Premiership final last season and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup.
Under Baxter’s management, a number of young English players have gone on to win caps for England, including Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Johnson, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell.
The Tavistock-born coach was also part of the England backroom staff during its tour to Argentina in the summer of 2013.
Given his record of improving Exeter Chiefs as a team season on season and bringing through young players, could he be the ideal replacement come 2019?
2) Dean Richards
With the Bloodgate scandal seeming to derail Richards’ career for a number of years, the former Harlequins and Leicester Tigers Director of Rugby is now working his magic at Newcastle Falcons.
Despite limited resources at the club, Richards has already guided the team to seventh in the Premiership and is quickly building a young squad with the talent to challenge every team in the league.
When this writer spoke to ex-Leicester back Leon Lloyd, who worked with Richards during the famous European Cup wins of 2001 and 2002, he said of the coach:
“Dean Richards knew that we needed a structure, but the rest of it was down to us to deliver. We had a lot of senior players there and we could change gameplans. He would implement the overall strategy but then we had full power to do what we felt was right on the pitch at that time.”
Richards is more of an organiser than a hands on coach, but he could be just the sort of person to take over from Eddie Jones and a settled England team come the end of the next World Cup.
1) Conor O’Shea
Although the RFU are unlikely to go for another foreign coach in 2020 – with Eddie Jones being the first in the country’s history – former Harlequins coach and Ireland fullback O’Shea could be a viable option by 2019.
At Harlequins O’Shea guided the club to its first ever Premiership title in 2012, as well as the European Challenge Cup in 2011.
O’Shea also spent a number of years working for the RFU and knows the English system particularly well.
Currently he is the head coach of Italy; having built up international experience with the Azzurri over the next three years, O’Shea could well be an experienced and intelligent option for the head coach post once Eddie Jones steps aside.
On this week’s edition of the Oval Office Podcast, we speak to Jamie Roberts and look ahead at the festive fixture list.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena