Eddie Jones’ hold on the England coaching job is looking shakier by the day with Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter publicly stating his desire to succeed the Australian in the role.
When Jones’ reign ends is unknown. He wants to remain in charge until the World Cup next year but after England’s failed Six Nations campaign, the RFU is conducting an internal review which could mean a change is coming sooner rather than later.
The RFU appears to be hellbent on replacing Jones with a home-grown successor whether the appointment is made this year or next.
Jones has been at England’s helm since the end of 2015, restoring pride after they failed to make the quarter-finals of the World Cup on home turf.
The former Wallabies coach has led them to Six Nations glory three times as well as taking them to the 2019 World Cup final where they lost to South Africa.
His overall record stands at an impressive 56 wins, 15 losses and one draw from 72 Tests at a 78% strike rate.
Baxter said he would be “happy to have a chat about what the role is, how they see it working and what their plans and ambitions are. For obvious reasons there’s an interest in it”.
“But I’ll be honest with you, we don’t really know what the job is. That’s one of the RFU’s challenges – to really decide. Unless you know what it is, it’s hard to say yes or no to anything.”
Bookmakers are already putting up markets on who will replace Jones with Baxter the favourite with Saracens mentor Mark McCall also a contender.
“I’m not one of these people who sit here and says ‘the English coach must be English’. I don’t think it’s a prerequisite that it has to be an Englishman at all,” he told reporters. “But I think it’s good that they’re looking within the English game as if you look historically there has been a preference to ignore Premiership coaches.”
Tahs wary of dangerous Drua
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper makes his long-awaited return for the Tahs off the bench against the Fijian Drua on the Gold Coast on Friday night.
The champion flanker is expected to enter the fray in the second half as the Waratahs look to complete a season double over the Drua and keep their finals hopes alive.
Stand-in skipper Jed Holloway, still deputising for the injured Jake Gordon, says the Waratahs have targeted the Drua and their trip to Perth to play the Western Force as must-win matches.
“There’s a big focus on these next two coming off a tough loss against the Reds on the weekend,” Holloway said at Thursday’s captain’s run.
“But I think the inclusions this week with Hoops coming back and being in the full swing of things and Lalakai (Foketi’s) 50th as well just raises the intensity.”
The Drua have suffered a double setback, forced to relocate camp and coach Mick Byrne catching the coronavirus. Byrne is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 and won’t be with the team when they tackle the Waratahs at Cbus Super Stadium.
Floodwaters caused the Lake Ainsworth Sport and Rec Centre – the squad’s base at Lennox Head – to close and on-site residents including Drua squad and staff to evacuate. The Drua have relocated to the Gold Coast for rounds seven and eight and hope to return to the NSW far north coast for the remainder of the competition.