By Ed Elliot, PA
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is “regarded very highly” by the Rugby Football Union as plans to identify Eddie Jones’ successor as England boss continue.
Jones eased mounting pressure on his position by masterminding this month’s 2-1 tour win in Australia but is due to step down when his contract ends following next year’s World Cup.
Farrell, whose own deal expires at the end of the 2023 tournament in France, has rapidly enhanced his reputation after guiding Ireland to a historic series victory in New Zealand on the back of a Six Nations Triple Crown.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney previously stated an English candidate would be the overwhelming preference to replace Australian Jones.
He has put together a Twickenham “war room” to aid recruitment and, asked specifically about the suitability of Wigan-born Farrell, replied: “He’s doing well, isn’t he?
“A couple of years ago, he wasn’t doing so well and there was a lot of pressure around him at the time.
“I think it was only two years ago where there were calls to get rid of Andy Farrell, Mike Catt (his assistant), that whole group.
“But they’ve come through that and they’re doing very well.
“He’s regarded very highly but we also have a huge respect for the Irish Rugby Football Union. He’s under contract through to ’23 and then whatever happens after ’23, happens after ’23.”
Farrell served as England defence coach from 2011 to 2015 before being sacked shortly after Jones was appointed following a dismal home World Cup under the tenure of Stuart Lancaster.
The former dual-code international, 47, has rebuilt his coaching career across the Irish Sea and joins Leicester’s Steve Borthwick, Exeter’s Rob Baxter and England forwards coach Richard Cockerill on a list of potential homegrown contenders.
Sweeney acknowledges there there is an abundance of English talent to consider as the RFU also weigh up backroom staff possibilities.
“Clearly we’ve developed options,” he said. “We’re fortunate at the moment that we’ve got a really good group of terrific English coaches coming through.
“The question is, ‘are they ready to succeed in 2023?’. And, if they are, what sort of structure do we put around them?
“Previously, the conversation has been around just the head coach, but each head coach is slightly different.
“You’ll have some head coaches who are very, very strong on the pure coaching aspect. You have others who are a bit more like a director of rugby in terms of management or leadership, so therefore it’s equally important not just the head coach but the entire coaching set-up we put around that.
“And we want to be more directive from an RFU perspective in terms of how that goes. We’re comfortable we’ve got a very good coaching succession plan in place.”
Sweeney also spoke of the need to provide prospective England coaching staff with Test-level experience and suggested forging links with an emerging nation such as Georgia could be beneficial.
He said: “We may have a really high potential English coach but how do we actually – in the same way that many companies do – take somebody and fast track them?
“Do you try and place an English coach as being head coach of Georgia for a while?
“Longer term, we need to make sure that we are developing all of those coaches up to be the best coaches they can be in a high-pressure, international environment.”
Asked if there had been discussions with Georgia, Sweeney replied: “We haven’t, but all the emerging nations will say, ‘how do we work closer together?’
“It’s an opportunity, an avenue that we haven’t used in the past. Andy Robinson is in Romania now, but that was under his own steam. I don’t see why we can’t build that into our overall coach development programme.”