Highly-rated Andy Farrell as RFU continues search for next England head coach
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is “highly valued” by the Rugby Football Union as plans to identify Eddie Jones’ successor as England boss continue.
Jones eased the growing pressure on his position by setting up this month’s 2-1 win in Australia but is set to step down when his contract runs out after next year’s World Cup.
Farrell, whose contract expires at the end of the 2023 tournament in France, quickly improved his reputation after guiding the in-form Irishman to a historic win in New Zealand with a Six Nations triple crown.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney previously said an English candidate would be the overwhelming preference to replace Australian Jones.
He set up a ‘war room’ at Twickenham to facilitate recruitment and, when asked specifically about the suitability of Wigan-born Farrell, replied: ‘He’s fine, isn’t he?
“A few years ago he was not doing very well and there was a lot of pressure around him at the time.
“I think it was only two years ago that there were calls to get rid of Andy Farrell, Mike Catt (his assistant), that whole bunch.
“But they’ve been through this and they’re doing really well.
“He’s highly regarded, but we also have huge respect for the Irish Rugby Football Union. He’s under contract until 23, then whatever happens after 23, happens after 23.”
Farrell was England’s defense coach from 2011 to 2015 before being sacked shortly after Jones’ appointment following a dismal home World Cup under Stuart Lancaster.
The former dual-code international, 47, has rebuilt his coaching career across the Irish Sea and joins Steve Borthwick of Leicester, Rob Baxter of Exeter and England forwards coach Richard Cockerill on a list of potential local suitors.
Sweeney acknowledges there is an abundance of English talent to consider as the RFU also assess staffing opportunities behind the scenes.
“Clearly we have developed options,” he said. “We are lucky at the moment to have a very good group of excellent English coaches arriving.
“The question is, ‘are they ready to succeed in 2023?’ And, if they are, what sort of structure do we put around them?
“Before, the conversation was only about the head coach, but every head coach is slightly different.
“You will have head coaches who are very, very strong on the pure coaching aspect. You have others who are a little more like a director of rugby in terms of management or leadership, so it’s just as important not just the head coach but the whole coaching structure as we put around that.
“And we want to be more directive from an RFU perspective on how that happens. We are convinced that we have put in place a very good coaching succession plan.
Sweeney also spoke of the need to provide potential 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 very high potential England manager, but how can we actually – in the same way that many companies do – take someone and step them up?
“Are you trying to put an English coach as Georgia’s head coach for a while?
“Longer term, we need to make sure that we develop all of these coaches to be the best possible coaches in a high-pressure international environment.”
When asked if there had been discussions with Georgia, Sweeney replied: “We don’t have any, but all the emerging nations will say, ‘How can we work more closely together?’
“It’s an opportunity, an avenue that we haven’t used in the past. Andy Robinson is in Romania now, but it was on his own initiative. I don’t see why we can’t integrate this into our overall coaching development program.