England ponder move for Gatland as caretaker boss if Jones is sacked

EXCLUSIVE: England weigh up STUNNING move for former Wales boss Warren Gatland if they sack Eddie Jones following dire autumn campaign… and Steve Borthwick could work with Kiwi before taking over after the World Cup

  • A dire November has prompted the RFU to launch an urgent post-mortem
  • Gatland is open to taking charge of England on a caretaker basis if Jones is axed
  • England have won just five of 12 games in 2022 following defeat by South Africa

Warren Gatland is understood to be open to taking charge of England on a caretaker basis if Eddie Jones is sacked.

The Kiwi has flown home to New Zealand after punditry duties for the autumn internationals, but he may not be there for long as, all of a sudden, the man who coached Wales for 12 years and has overseen the Lions on three tours finds himself preparing for the possibility of another long-haul assignment.

Gatland could be wanted on both sides of the Severn Bridge, in the event that the RFU opt to remove Jones from his post and the Welsh Rugby Union take similarly drastic action to end Wayne Pivac’s tenure in Cardiff.

Eddie Jones is clinging for his job as England head coach having suffered a poor autumn series

A dire November for England has prompted the union to launch an urgent post-mortem. There are indications that, for the first time, they may be losing faith in Jones — having previously said that he remained the right man to take the national team through to next year’s World Cup.

The RFU were already in succession planning mode and had identified Steve Borthwick, Scott Robertson and Ronan O’Gara as the three front-runners to take over from Jones after the global showpiece in France. 

But if the timescale changes and the vacancy becomes an immediate one, it may lead chief executive Bill Sweeney and his colleagues on the board to consider the option of appointing a caretaker for the next, crucial 11 months.

Warren Gatland is open to taking charge of England on a caretaker basis if Jones is sacked

Sportsmail understands that Gatland would be receptive to an approach, having previously refused to rule out the notion of coaching England, despite his long-standing connection with Wales. He is contracted to the New Zealand Rugby Union as the Waikato Chiefs’ director of rugby until June next year, but a release would be a mere formality.

Speaking on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast in October, the 59-year-old said: ‘They wouldn’t let me back into Wales if I went and took on the enemy! I loved my time in Wales, but you never say never about anything and we’ll see what happens over the next few months.’

Little did Gatland know then just how much would happen, so soon. While acting as a pundit on Amazon Prime during the Autumn Nations Series, the Kiwi was forced to repeatedly, diplomatically answer questions about the pressure on Pivac — his struggling compatriot and successor as Wales head coach — and his interest in a shock return. Now an England overhaul may be on the cards.

Steve Borthwick could work alongside Gatland before stepping up as head coach

England have won just five of 12 games in 2022 following Saturday’s defeat by South Africa

Another New Zealander in the mix is Robertson, who has emerged as one of the most respected coaches in the world game after guiding the Crusaders to six successive Super Rugby titles since taking over in Christchurch in 2017. 

But despite the clamour for him to be brought in to succeed Jones, a short-term vacancy may not be suitable as he would need time to settle and acclimatise as he is without any Test pedigree or experience of working in this part of the world.

The expectation is that if Robertson were to take charge of England, he would want to implement a significant shift in culture and game-plan. But there would be precious little time for such upheaval before a World Cup which is just over nine months away — and with the next Six Nations looming in 10 weeks. Furthermore, the All Blacks job is the one he truly craves.

Gatland, on the other hand, has a c.v. full of relevant qualifications: Grand Slams and championship titles with Wales, experience of working with the leading English players on Lions tours and the distinction of reaching two World Cup semi-finals. He is fully in tune with the British rugby landscape and mind-set, from his long spell with Wales and previous, successful stint with Wasps, which yielded domestic and European success.

New Zealander Scott Robertson is also in the mix to be the next England head coach

The RFU, led by CEO Bill Sweeney, are starting to lose patience in the Australian

Having transformed Leicester into Premiership champions, Borthwick is an accomplished, meticulous technician who has vast Test experience, but not as a No 1. Pitching him into an emergency scenario now may damage his long-term development so a logical step would be to put Gatland in caretaker charge, with Borthwick alongside, overseeing the England forwards, with the younger man primed to step up to the lead role after the World Cup.

Borthwick, Robertson and O’Gara were all interviewed by the RFU on the same day early last month, when the latter pair were in London to coach the Barbarians. But O’Gara is thought to be on the verge of signing a new three-year deal to stay at La Rochelle, who he guided to European Heineken Champions Cup glory last season.

The Irishman is currently serving another touchline ban for abusing match officials and is regarded as the outsider of the short-listed three to succeed Jones. Gatland was not regarded as a candidate when the RFU recruitment process was held with a view to regime change at the end of next year, but now he may become the primary target for a salvage operation.

Jones is not due to meet his RFU bosses until next week, but in the meantime, player feedback is being sought by Conor O’Shea — the union’s director of performance rugby.

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