That prospect has moved a step closer following a brief Saracens statement yesterday that “cordial and constructive discussions” have started between themselves and the Rugby Football Union. Those talks will focus on current Saracens first team coach Andy Farrell, who was part of England’s RBS coaching team alongside Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree
The statement read: “Saracens and the RFU today started cordial and constructive discussions on the subject of support staff for newly-appointed England coach Stuart Lancaster.
“The club will not provide a running commentary on this process and will make no further comment until the deliberations reach a conclusion.”
On Thursday, the RFU upgraded Six Nations interim head coach Stuart Lancaster to a permanent role on a contract that will incorporate the 2015 World Cup in England. Forwards specialist Graham Rowntree is set to follow Lancaster by landing a long-term deal. And that then leaves the possible sticking point – backs and defence coach Farrell, the dual code rugby international who is Saracens’ first team coach and under contract to them.
Lancaster, Rowntree and Farrell – despite being together for just eight weeks – masterminded a second-placed finish in this season’s Six Nations.
England won four out of their five Tests, including claiming three away victories for the first time in one Six Nations campaign. They also went within a converted try of holding eventual Six Nations and Grand Slam champions Wales. Lancaster has said he knows the coaching team he wants to take England forward, with his next assignment being a three-Test tour of South Africa in June when England will face the Springboks in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth on successive weekends.
The appointment of Rowntree, who is already on the RFU payroll, is not expected to pose any problems. But prising Farrell from Saracens may be a trickier proposition, with their chief executive Edward Griffiths insistent that they do not want to lose him. The fact that talks are under way, though, suggests Farrell could be on his way to England sooner, rather than later, especially if a satisfactory financial compensation deal can be thrashed out.
Griffiths, speaking before Saracens issued their statement, told BBC Radio Five Live: “The RFU asked if they could loan Andy Farrell for the Six Nations, which we did in the national interest. They made it very clear that it was just for the Six Nations.
“He is contracted to us for another two years and he is a massive part of what we’re planning here as a club, and that’s really the situation. We will doubtless talk to the RFU shortly and hear what they have got to say, but from a Saracens perspective Andy is a big part of our club and a big part of our future.”
Saracens host Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins at Wembley today, when Griffiths can expect further media questioning about Farrell’s situation.
Lancaster told Five Live that his thoughts and those of the RFU would now turn to finalising the coaching team.
But the former England Saxons coach is clearly keen for continuity as he looks towards a tour of South Africa, followed by autumn Test appointments with the Springboks, world champions New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.