Mallinder the favourite after Mallett rules himself out despite RFU’s interest

NICK Mallett has ruled himself out of contention to replace Martin Johnson as England’s next head coach.

The former South Africa and Italy coach revealed he was approached by the Rugby Football Union this week about the prospect of taking charge of England, should Johnson resign.

When Johnson announced he had decided to stand down as team manager yesterday, Mallett was immediately installed as many people’s favourite to take over but he has decided against moving from South Africa back to his native England.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I would like to lay to rest the speculation linking me to the now-vacant England rugby coaching position,” Mallett said in a statement. “The RFU contacted me earlier this week to enquire about my availability, should Martin Johnson resign. I had previously expressed my interest in the position publicly and was interested to hear what RFU representatives had to say.

“After mulling it over and discussing the opportunity with close friends and family, I have decided that I will not be making myself available.”

“My primary concern is my family – I am happy to have returned home to South Africa after a tremendous four-year term with the Italian national team.

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder is now favourite to replace Johnson, with former players quick to put forward the name of their own favourite. But there is also a heavy overseas contingent among the bookmakers’ front-runners.

Former England full-back Mallinder is a 5/2 shot with William Hill, but Jake White, Graham Henry and Eddie Jones also feature prominently.

Yorkshireman Mallinder, 45, led Northampton back into the Premiership during his first season at the helm in 2007/08, and, under his guidance, Saints went on to win the European Challenge Cup, Anglo-Welsh Cup and reach last season's Heineken Cup final.

He has also enjoyed success at representative level, steering England Under-21s to Six Nations title success in 2006 before claiming 15 wins out of 16 games as England Saxons supremo.

Former England scrum-half Dewi Morris said of Johnson’s exit: “I think he has done the honourable thing and is probably sick to the back teeth about what has been going on.

“Unfortunately, he has come up a little bit short as a manager. Some of his selections have been a bit clueless and England’s performance over the World Cup has not been good enough. It is time someone else took over. I remember saying three years ago that no other country in the world would have put Martin Johnson in the job as he had no experience whatsoever.

“Hopefully, it is now a clean slate and they [the RFU] need to get the right person in to sort it out on the playing side.”

Stuart Barnes, meanwhile, believes the RFU should do everything in their power to lure New Zealand’s World Cup-winning supremo Henry, who has now stepped down from All Blacks duty.

Henry will be in London next week, coaching the Barbarians ahead of their November 26 appointment with Australia at Twickenham.

“I would love to see Graham Henry take over,” former England fly-half Barnes told Sky Sports News. “Henry is the best and most experienced coach in the world, and what he does best is that he is outstanding at developing his coaches.”

Ex-England captain Will Carling paid tribute to Johnson, stating on Twitter: “The man was an awesome player, incredible captain.

“One of THE greatest England players/servants. Hope there is a role for him.”

Sir Ian McGeechan, who appointed Johnson as Lions captain for the successful South Africa tour 14 years ago, said: “I was disappointed when I heard the news.

“For me, Martin was the right person to be heading up England. I think it will be a miss.”