Saturday 24 March 2018

Mallett back in frame for England job

Chris Hewett

Strong indications from Australia yesterday that Jake White, a World Cup-winning coach with the Springboks in 2007, will be coaching the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies rather than England next year might have come as a fresh disappointment to the profoundly gloomy grandees of Twickenham, but for the fact that their first choice put himself back in the frame a few hours later.

Nick Mallett -- another South African, albeit one born in Hertfordshire -- said the ball was now in the RFU's court and he can be sure they will throw that ball in his direction over the coming days.

Mallett ruled himself out of succeeding Martin Johnson in time for the Six Nations, which begins in February.

But he added a rather important rider. "I wouldn't rule myself out in the future," he said. "I'd like to spend some time in South Africa with my children so the timing is not good at the moment. But there might be a situation where the timing is better."

This can be taken to mean that Mallett, who ended a demanding stint as Italy coach in October, might consider taking the job ahead of England's three-Test trip to South Africa, of all places, in June. Certainly, this is what Mallett's many supporters at Twickenham are hoping, although they know their principal target will demand many assurances from the RFU on issues of governance, structure and line management before considering any offer.

"You can never say no," he said. "The family situation might have changed in April or May -- my wife might be saying it's time for me to get off the sofa and get back into coaching. England is a very big job and it would be a huge honour to do it, but I've made it clear that a head coach should report to the board, not to a director of rugby or performance director.

"Look at previous World Cups: I can't remember any team with a director of rugby being successful. You wouldn't find Graham Henry or Jake White reporting to a director of rugby. I didn't report to one, and neither did Clive Woodward when he coached England. The responsibility for the team is with the head coach and that's how I'd see the job."

At the moment, Rob Andrew is the director of elite rugby at Twickenham -- a man who proved during Johnson's ill-starred tenure that he was more than happy to avoid all forms of interference in the affairs of the Test team. Interestingly, Woodward is keen on a return to Twickenham in an expanded version of Andrew's role. Would he be so keen on a hands-off approach? Now, there's a question.

The England Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster is likely to lead the side through the Six Nations if no full-time appointment is made before Christmas. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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