England role unlikely for Warren Gatland due to wait and see policy
Eddie Jones is contracted until 2021 but has publicly hinted he will leave post World Cup
England risk missing out on the chance to recruit Warren Gatland as their head coach after the Rugby Football Union revealed Eddie Jones’ successor would not be appointed until after the World Cup. Photograph: PA
The English Rugby Football Union is ready to risk missing out on Warren Gatland as England’s next head coach because it insists on hedging its bets over Eddie Jones’s successor and will not make an appointment until after the World Cup.
Jones is contracted with the RFU until 2021 but has publicly hinted he will leave after this year’s tournament in Japan. There is also a break clause in his contract if England do not reach the semi-finals and this week he refused to rule out returning to his native Australia to coach the Wallabies.
The RFU is planning for both eventualities, drawing up two lists of potential candidates to either replace Jones at the end of the year or be appointed in the summer of 2020 and work under him for a year. While the RFU deliberates, however, Gatland long ago confirmed he will leave the Wales job after the World Cup and, according to reports in France, he is on a shortlist to take charge of les bleus after the tournament in Japan.
The RFU’s position is further complicated because the incoming chief executive, Bill Sweeney, who will want to have a say in the identity of Jones’s successor, still does not have a start date.
Gatland recently joked the RFU could not afford him but after guiding Wales to a third Six Nations grand slam in his tenure this month he is the outstanding candidate. He could, however, be signed up for a third stint as the head coach of the British and Irish Lions before England are willing to act.
But the interim RFU chief executive, Nigel Melville, said: “There are more than one or two coaches in the world. We are looking at more than one or two coaches. Is Warren going to do the Lions? Is Warren going to France? Is Warren coming to England? Is Warren doing all sorts? At this point that is not a concern to me. We aren’t at the moment talking to one of those [BIG-HITTING]coaches. Post-World Cup we will decide what is happening in terms of Eddie.”