Exeter’s Ali Hepher is to be appointed England Saxons backs coach for their tour of South Africa this summer, a move which could act as a stepping stone to him being appointed England’s senior backs coach after the Australia tour.
The Guardian are reporting that Hepher has accepted by invitation to coach England Saxons’ backs for the two matches against South Africa ‘A’ this June, although Exeter head coach Rob Baxter will not be involved: “I can categorically say I am not going,” Baxter told The Guardian.
Although Eddie Jones has already confirmed that he will not be looking to appoint a full-time attack coach until after the tour and will be continuing the role himself for the time being, the appointment of Hepher to the Saxons could be seen as a type of trial or stepping stone for the Exeter man.
Hepher has yet to coach at international level, but the quality and consistency of Exeter’s attack over the past few seasons has won him many admirers, and he was previously linked to the position of England’s attack coach before the Six Nations, along with Northampton’s Alex King.
England head coach Eddie Jones has already made it clear he expects any future attack coach to have a similar rugby philosophy to him.
Asked what types of coach he wanted to bring in to his England coaching set-up originally, Jones told the Telegraph:
“I think guys that can work with me, that understand my philosophy of play, that can add to my philosophy of play and can add to England going forward.”
The Saxons tour will provide Hepher with the perfect opportunity to show Jones that he can man-manage players in an international context effectively and can coach them into a coherent approach to the game in a short space of time, a task which mirrors the England senior set-up where the new coaching team of Jones, Borthwick and Gustard had less than two weeks to prepare the side for the task of playing Scotland at Murrayfied.
With Saxons fixtures being dropped from the Six Nations window this year due to the demands of a World Cup season on both club and country, the newly-announced tour is a welcome addition that will allow Jones to take a closer look at his second string players, a whole host of youngsters and up-and-coming coaches that could potentially add to the senior set-up.
With England going to Australia as well, it is going to be an exciting and nail-biting time for all England fans this summer.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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