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English coaches could be ruled out of top England job by RFU rules

Published 28/09/2016

Exeter boss Rob Baxter, pictured, and Jim Mallinder believe a successful Aviva Premiership coach should be given the chance to succeed Eddie Jones as England coach
Exeter boss Rob Baxter, pictured, and Jim Mallinder believe a successful Aviva Premiership coach should be given the chance to succeed Eddie Jones as England coach

Top Aviva Premiership coaches believe they could be ruled out of succeeding Eddie Jones as England head coach by the Rugby Football Union's criteria for the role.

England boss Ian Ritchie has challenged homegrown coaches to gain international experience to be in the frame to replace Australian Jones, who could step down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The RFU chief executive's demands were met with a level of frustration by Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter and Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder however, with both explaining the pitfalls of chasing gainful coaching employment overseas.

Exeter boss Baxter admitted the general consensus among English league coaches also remains that the RFU has yet to hand a successful Aviva Premiership coach the chance to lead the national side.

"It would be a huge risk for me personally to move abroad, for me, for my family," said Exeter coach Baxter.

"You're probably ruling out your majority of Premiership coaches, because there won't be many who will think, 'okay then, I'll stop this now and go and get a job in Japan', it's not going to happen. There's a reality to that.

"As much as it's a valid argument about experience it's probably ruling out the majority of English coaches for quite a long time.

"I think that's the consensus among Premiership coaches. It's not a conflict between us and the RFU though, just more each of us going through sensible arguments around the situation."

England's assistant coaches Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard will both be in the frame to succeed Jones when the 56-year-old leaves his post.

Exeter assistant Ali Hepher and Northampton coach Alan Dickens steered England Saxons' summer tour, with Baxter joining Stuart Lancaster's coaching staff for England's tour to Argentina in 2013.

The RFU is keen to support Premiership clubs to help coaches gain experience beyond the confines of the domestic game, but both Baxter and Mallinder believe the challenges of England's top flight can still shape future Test coaches.

"I'd always like to see an English coach coaching the England side," said Northampton boss Mallinder.

"There are lots of advantages of the Premiership and the European Champions Cup. These are tough games in Europe and the Premiership.

"The RFU has never gone down the route of trying an experienced, successful coach from the Premiership. Obviously they have employed English coaches, but not someone who has worked hard and gained extensive Premiership experience.

"I think in all these top teams now we've got in England, coaches are looking after international players. That's what the job is.

"Rob Baxter, Ali Hepher and Alan Dickens with us at Saints, they have all coached with the Saxons, so they have had some experience as well."

Former Japan boss Jones led England to their first-ever Test series win over Australia in June, with Baxter hailing the vastly-experienced boss' impact in succeeding Stuart Lancaster.

Baxter however echoed Mallinder's statement that a top-performing coach from the Aviva Premiership era is yet to be handed the England reins.

"It's already been proved at this stage the correct call to go and get Eddie Jones," said Baxter.

"But where was this instance when an established Premiership coach was selected for the England job, and failed? It hasn't happened.

"Where was a Jim Mallinder, a Richard Cockerill, or a Mark McCall?

"Quite a few have had Premiership success but none have had a chance at the England job.

"Mark McCall must have managed, developed and coached as many international players as some Test coaches. Why would coaching overseas necessarily make him a better coach?

"Why not give someone like him the job and then we can examine whether the Premiership is a good breeding ground for England coaches, because we don't know at this point."

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