Borthwick is the RFU's man but he wouldn't be my choice - Andy Goode
The RFU finally decided enough is enough, albeit potentially 18 months too late, but now they should be bold in appointing Eddie Jones’ successor.
Clearly, Bill Sweeney didn’t have a plan fully in place or they would have named the new man in the same breath as dismissing Jones, as Wales did with Warren Gatland and Wayne Pivac, but I fully expect Steve Borthwick to be named England head coach before long.
That has been on the cards for some time and now it’s just a case of bringing the date forward, agreeing the timing and sorting the contractual details with Leicester, but fortune favours the brave and I still believe they should move heaven and earth to get Scott Robertson.
A breakdancing Kiwi coach and the blazers in the boardroom at Twickenham don’t seem like they fit but if you speak to anyone in the modern, professional game, it’s clear that he is best placed to create an environment, as well as a structure on the field, for the talent in England to thrive.
New Zealand Rugby would not make it easy for him to take over but, unless they’ve indicated to him that he’s in line to become the All Blacks boss in the not too distant future, we know he would be amenable to taking the England job.
I’ve no doubt nine months is more than enough time for him to turn things around before the World Cup too and whether it is Robertson or Borthwick, the only two realistic candidates, I do think England stand a better chance of winning the World Cup than they did with Jones in charge.
Ultimately, that is the view the RFU have taken and we’ll never know whether Eddie had a masterplan up his sleeve and it is a big mistake as some respected figures such as Matt Giteau have suggested.
Given the obvious contrast in approaches, I do feel England might get a bigger ‘new manager bounce’ under Robertson but they should still get one with Borthwick, who they seem to see as a more long-term option.
England certainly had one of those under Jones as they won their first 17 Tests under him and nobody should forget that he won three Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam, and took the team to a World Cup final.
The fact that he has the best success rate of any England head coach is a credit to him but it isn’t particularly relevant to the decision about whether to make a change. His win percentage over the past two years is just 55% and in the end that has cost him.
The line in the RFU’s statement confirming that Richard Cockerill will “take over the day to day running of the men’s performance team” is just a procedural requirement and a fallback in case there are any delays in appointing Borthwick I’m sure.
It’s cost a lot of money to dismiss Jones already and it’ll be interesting to see how smoothly the process of appointing his successor and, crucially, his assistant coaches will be.
You have to question whether Borthwick would want to just slot in above the likes of Cockerill, Matt Proudfoot and Martin Gleeson and, as well as the cost involved, Tigers will surely not want to lose the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Aled Walters and Richard Wigglesworth too.
He has taken Leicester from 11th in the Premiership to winning the title in just his second season at the helm but it’s fair to ask if it’s a bit early in his evolution as a head coach for Borthwick to make the step up to international level.
Plus, it seems odd to say it given that lack of experience in the top job but Borthwick is certainly the safe appointment and the one less likely to have fans jumping for joy.
Press conferences will definitely be less explosive than they were in the Jones era and he doesn’t have the same charisma as Robertson that might naturally galvanise both the players and supporters.
It tends to be the case that coaches have a lifespan, things go stale and a new voice is needed and, while Borthwick is considered Jones’ protégé and in the same mould as him, he was assistant coach during the successful part of Jones’ England tenure so is unburdened by the recent failures.
Jones himself has said in the past that staying too long was his biggest mistake when he was Australia head coach and he was in that role for less than five years so perhaps he’ll feel the same when he looks back on his seven-year stint in charge of England.
As for the decision to dismiss him, it certainly isn’t a shock after the results and performances over the past couple of years but it did seem like the RFU were unwilling to act and I think it’s the deterioration in his relationship with the public that changed that.
The boos at Twickenham, ever-growing discontent among rugby fans across the country and disconnect between Jones and his players and the paying public become harder and harder to ignore and all of a sudden the end of the road comes sooner than you think.
The timing is the fascinating element in all this and I certainly think the RFU have to take criticism for backing themselves into a corner by not making a change after the disastrous 2021 Six Nations or the almost equally disappointing tournament this year.
If they’d made the decision then, they would have had more time to consider their options and negotiate and there would have been more candidates in the frame, as well as there being more time for the new man to implement his own ideas ahead of the World Cup.
We can’t change the past, though, and we can’t change the RFU overnight either so as exciting as it would be to see Robertson appointed, Borthwick is the more straightforward option and obvious heir to the throne.
One thing is for sure, the next England head coach has a whole heap of talent and resources at their disposal and, while the timing is far from ideal, a change was needed and we’ve seen coaches turn things around very quickly before so England’s World Cup chances have absolutely not gone up in smoke with Jones’ departure.
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