The Six Nations is a matter of weeks away, and the Rugby World Cup now looms ominously on the horizon in September.
It’s a time for preparations, short and long term, and it appears as though the RFU are already planning a successor to Eddie Jones as head coach.
The diminutive Aussie’s contract with England runs out in 2021, and after a fairly indifferent year – which has included as many defeats as it has wins – it is believed that his position is in jeopardy.
The RFU’s interim chief executive, Nigel Melville, has already confirmed that Warren Gatland, who will leave his role as Wales’ head coach following the World Cup, is on his shortlist of potential successors to Jones.
However, he also intimated that a domestic candidate would be his preferred choice. “Warren’s a very good coach, but I’m not sure what his plans are,” Melville said. “I’ll speak to Warren and a number of others and then we’ll see.
“We want the best person for the job. I am English, this is England, of course it would be great to have an English coach. But we have got to have the best coach for the job.”
Awkward Autumn Leaves Jones on Tenterhooks
Crucially, there is a ‘break clause’ in Jones’ contract that can be utilised should England flop at the World Cup, but could that process be accelerated if the men in white struggle at the Six Nations?
The RFU will want to head into that extravaganza in positive mood, and the Autumn internationals did not convince all pundits that England are on a steady footing right now.
Many watched on with horror as Japan ran riot in the first half of a contest that England eventually came out on top in, while in the clash with South Africa at Twickenham the hosts enjoyed just 33% possession in the first half, and made a measly 36% of territory.
Those rather flaccid showings have dampened enthusiasm somewhat ahead of the Six Nations, for which the England rugby team are now as long as 3/1 to win behind tournament favourites Ireland.
“After those years in the Welsh job he couldn’t take the English job on principle – or could he? He did not publicly distance himself from it,” Francis wrote.
“Some of the names being put forward would leave Gatland as the best qualified and most experienced by a good distance.”
The Kiwi continues to draw plaudits for his work with Wales, who enjoyed a fine autumn of their own.
The Dragons comfortably beat Scotland, overcame Australia and trounced Tonga. And their 20-11 victory over South Africa was evidence that the defensive work Gatland has been working on during training is coming up trumps.
And so all eyes will be on Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on February 2. That is the scene of what could potentially be the Six Nations decider on the first day of the competition: Ireland vs England. It could also possibly be the beginning of the end for Jones too.
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