There was silence from Murrayfield yesterday as Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill emerged as a surprise contender to become the next England boss after the 2019 World Cup.
Former England scrum-half Nigel Melville, who is the RFU’s interim chief executive, revealed over the weekend that he has drawn up a list of potential successors to Eddie Jones, and that Cockerill is on it.
Current England coach Jones is under contract with the RFU until 2021, but could be outed if his team do not deliver to the high levels expected of the world’s biggest and best-resourced rugby nation in the next 12 months.
Cockerill joined Edinburgh during the summer of 2017 and his honest and direct approach has had a galvanising effect on the side both on and off the park. He has instilled a level of professionalism which has transformed the squad from a bunch of journeymen and Scotland players taking a break until the next international window into a dedicated unit who currently sit top of pool five in the European Champions Cup.
“Cockerill has done an amazing job in Edinburgh,” explained Melville. “I questioned whether he would but actually he’s done a really good job. I have been watching them a lot.”
But Melville made it clear that he was not purely focussed on Cockerill.
Warren Gatland and Stuart Lancaster are the highest-profile candidates, while Joe Worsley and Steve Borthwick are also being monitored.
Melville said Worsley, a defence coach at Bordeaux, has done a “great job” in France, while Borthwick, currently England assistant coach, “knows international rugby pretty well now”.
Mark McCall of Saracens and Rob Baxter of Exeter Chiefs have distanced themselves from the job.
“There are these young guys around that you sometimes don’t think about,” he explained. “Joe Worsley has done a great job in Bordeaux, he’s head coach now and it’ll be interesting to see how that develops.
“Steve Borthwick [England assistant coach] did some great work going down to various countries, obviously working with Japan. I’m sure Steve would be interested in the head coach job. He’s a good developing coach and he knows international rugby pretty well now.”
Cockerill was initially dismissive about the prospect of becoming the next England head coach when he spoke to BBC’s Five Live last Thursday, which was before Melville’s comments were published.
“I am not sure that is a conversation the Union will be having with me anytime soon,” he stated, emphatically.
Asked if it was a role he covets, the 47-year-old replied: “It’s a really hard one. Guys have come out in the last few days and said they are probably not interested.
“It is such a high-pressure job and it is almost sometimes a hiding to nothing.
“When you are in a really good DOR [director of rugby] job at your club and enjoying it, I am not sure for some guys it is that tempting to leave the day-in-day-out work of club rugby, which is great fun.”