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Jake White back in the frame to take over as England coach

JAKE White, who coached South Africa to their World Cup win in 2007, is believed to be on the shortlist for the England head coach position, The Daily Telegraph understands

White, who recently took up the position of director of rugby with Australia Super 15 franchise the Brumbies, is thought to fit the Rugby Football Union’s desired profile for coach with heavyweight international experience in their hunt for a permanent successor to Martin Johnson.

Sources revealed that White is now in contention following recent confirmation by the RFU’s new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, that their recruitment search would not be limited to the list of applicants.

White, who signed a four-year deal with the Brumbies last July, had ruled himself out of applying for the England position last November, although he did admit that he still held aspirations to become the first coach to win the World Cup twice.

England interim coach Stuart Lancaster and former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett are also understood to be on the shortlist, with interviews to be carried out over the next two weeks.

“It’s a simple objective: To get the best person we can to do this job,” Ritchie said. “We have the capability of going outside the list (of applicants). We had exactly that conversation about going outside the list a little while ago and we should be doing exactly that if we need to.”

White, 48, had previously been linked to the Australia job before the appointment of Robbie Deans and is understood to have had brief discussions with the RFU about the performance director position last January before the role was scrapped after former chief executive John Steele was sacked. John Kirwan, the former Italy and Japan coach, and former Ireland and United States coach Eddie O’Sullivan were also considered but have not made the shortlist.

Former All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith also reiterated yesterday that he had not put himself forward for the head coach position, although both Mallett and White are likely to consider bringing Smith in as part of their coaching ticket if either were to get the job.

White also has a strong working relationship with former Australia coach Eddie Jones, who was part of the coaching staff when South Africa won the World Cup in 2007.

Lancaster has gained respect within the powerbrokers at the RFU for the way he has helped restored England’s reputation on and off the pitch following the disastrous World Cup campaign. But the former Leeds director of rugby’s lack of experience on the international stage is likely to put him at a disadvantage against the likes of White and Mallett, given the RFU’s job description for the role.

Meanwhile, Toby Flood, the Leicester fly-half, has been dropped for England’s Six Nations match against France following the return to fitness of Charlie Hodgson. Flood, who came off the bench in the 19-12 defeat by Wales, looked to have pressed his claims for remaining in the squad with a match-winning performance for Leicester against Gloucester on Sunday.

But given that Hodgson started the Six Nations victories over Scotland and Italy, scoring a try in each game, interim coach Lancaster is set to name the Saracens fly-half on the bench to face France. Hodgson was ruled out of the Wales game with a finger injury.

Owen Farrell, who replaced Hodgson at fly-half after two solid games at inside centre, is poised to retain his starting berth after a fine performance against Wales. The only other change expected is Tom Palmer returning to the bench for the injured Courtney Lawes.

Leicester No 8 Thomas Waldrom, Bath hooker Lee Mears and Northampton pair Paul Doran-Jones and Calum Clark have also been released for the LV Cup duty this weekend.

England (probable): B Foden; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, D Strettle; O Farrell, L Dickson; A Corbisiero, D Hartley, D Cole, M Botha, G Parling, T Croft, C Robshaw, B Morgan. Replacements: R Webber, M Stevens, T Palmer, P Dowson B Youngs, C Hodgson, M Brown.