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Where Warren Gatland's Wales are poised to do the most damage

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Eight coaches aiming to get their hands on the World Cup

By PA
Ian Foster and Warren Gatland shake hands prior to the World Cup bronze final between New Zealand and Wales. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Eddie Jones’ appointment as Australia head coach means three of rugby’s major nations have new men in charge going into this year’s World Cup.

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Steve Borthwick was last month unveiled as Jones’ successor with England, while Warren Gatland returned for a second stint with Wales.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the coaches tasked with attempting to guide the sport’s leading countries to glory in France in September and October.

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Eddie Jones (Australia)
Jones was dismissed by England in December following a dismal 2022 but has swiftly returned to the game for a second spell in charge of his native country, replacing the sacked Dave Rennie on a contract until 2027. The well-travelled 62-year-old led the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final and finished runner-up for a second time with England in 2019. He also guided Japan to a shock success over South Africa at the 2015 tournament.

Steve Borthwick (England)
Former England forwards coach and captain Borthwick arrived at Twickenham with an impressive CV. He joined Leicester as head coach in 2020 and guided Tigers to the Gallagher Premiership title in his second season. During his playing career as an outstanding second-row forward, he featured in 57 Tests and clocked up close to 400 appearances for Bath and Saracens. His stint starts against Scotland on February 4.

Fabien Galthie (France)
Although Ireland are currently the world’s number one team, France go into their home tournament as favourites. Les Bleus clinched a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2022 and possess enviable strength in depth. Former scrum-half Galthie succeeded Jacques Brunel following the last World Cup and swiftly set about bringing through an exciting array of talent. He has overseen 13 successive wins, including defeating the All Blacks.

Andy Farrell (Ireland)
Former rugby league star Farrell has made a huge impression since succeeding Joe Schmidt. Ireland top the world rankings on the back of a stellar year in which they claimed a historic Test series triumph in New Zealand, toppled South Africa and Australia, and claimed a Six Nations Triple Crown. The Irish have never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage – a record Farrell will be desperate to change.

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Ian Foster (New Zealand)
New Zealand suffered only 10 defeats in 108 Tests during Foster’s time as assistant to Steve Hansen. The 57-year-old has failed to fully convince since promotion to the top job in 2019 and already lost nine of 34 fixtures, including the All Blacks’ first defeats to Argentina. A seven-match unbeaten run has alleviated some of the pressure. Yet Foster, whose contract expires after the tournament, has plenty to do to get the three-time champions firing.

Gregor Townsend (Scotland)
Townsend, who won 82 caps for his country, took over in 2017 and has masterminded some impressive wins, including a first Twickenham victory over England for 38 years. France and Australia have also been toppled but Scotland continue to search for consistency. The Scots suffered an underwhelming pool-stage exit four years ago under the 49-year-old and need to find another gear.

Jacques Nienaber (South Africa)
Nienaber was assistant coach when the Springboks were crowned world champions in 2019 before stepping up after the tournament to allow Rassie Erasmus to fully focus on the director of rugby role. At the time, Nienaber had no experience as a head coach. The 50-year-old has won 16 of his 26 Tests in charge, including a 2-1 series success over the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

Warren Gatland (Wales)
During Gatland’s initial 12-year reign from 2007 to 2019, Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly the world’s number one team. The New Zealander was tempted back after a miserable 2022 for the Welsh, which included home defeats against Italy and Georgia, spelt the end for compatriot Wayne Pivac. Gatland, 59, has taken charge of the last three Lions tours.

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