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RFU looks set to break the mould and look overseas for England's next head coach

Published 12/11/2015

South African Jake White (centre) is currently the bookmakers' favourite to become England's next head coach
South African Jake White (centre) is currently the bookmakers' favourite to become England's next head coach

England's top coaches will enter the glamorous European Champions Cup shop window this weekend - but it would appear the blinds have already been drawn on any immediate international aspirations.

A global search is under way to find Stuart Lancaster's successor as England head coach, and all the signs point to him being a foreigner.

The Rugby Football Union has never previously gone outside England to identify its national team boss, but life after Lancaster looks like breaking that mould.

With RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie's stated aim of targeting a coach who has "proven international experience," it would suggest that rugby's overseas market is the place for rich pickings.

Bookmakers William Hill currently have four Aviva Premiership rugby directors or head coaches among their top 10 England candidates - Jim Mallinder, Rob Baxter, Mike Ford and Dean Ryan - but the leading three contenders are South African Jake White (3/1), Australian Eddie Jones (4/1) and New Zealander Wayne Smith (6/1).

Cumbrian Lancaster's reign will be remembered for a victory over world champions New Zealand and four runners-up finishes in the RBS 6 Nations Championship - but above all, a failed World Cup campaign on home soil.

England became the first Rugby World Cup host nation not to secure a quarter-final place, although it should perhaps also be remembered that Lancaster's 28 victories from 46 Tests - a 61 per cent success-rate - is better than any England head coach since World Cup-winning mastermind Sir Clive Woodward quit in 2004.

Considering England's dire World Cup episode, though, the question must be asked whether Ritchie and company will baulk - at least for now - in terms of looking on their doorstep.

Bath boss Ford, for instance, was a long-term member of previous England coaching set-ups, while there are many who will put forward strong claims for Northampton rugby director Mallinder, Exeter head coach Baxter and Worcester chief Ryan.

At least one of them might conceivably feature among the new man's support staff, but in terms of the head honcho, an overseas appointment appears certain.

White is a World Cup winner - although he last coached at Test level when South Africa won the tournament eight years ago - while Jones took Australia to the 2003 final and then oversaw Japan's unforgettable 2015 campaign, and Smith has been there and achieved everything with New Zealand.

With the likes of Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt, Michael Cheika, Vern Cotter Nick Mallett, Robbie Deans, Ian Foster and Dave Rennie also being mentioned, an Englishman taking charge of England for World Cup 2019 and its lengthy build-up seems unlikely.

Whoever Ritchie and the RFU capture, though, it cannot be the wrong man.

England have largely stuttered and stalled since 2003, and they currently find themselves ranked a lowly eighth in the world, although talents like George Ford, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Joe Launchbury suggest that exciting times could lie ahead.

Despite England's trials and tribulations of recent weeks, the head coach's job is no less attractive in a global market.

And while a clamour will exist in many quarters for an English appointment, harsh reality suggests that at this moment in time, "Made in England" might not be the best product available.

But whoever gets the job, he must be given complete authority to do things his way with his people. Anything less, and things will soon start unravelling.

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