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Rob Baxter prepared to meet the RFU over Jones' England succession

By PA
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

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Rob Baxter is prepared to meet with English rugby chiefs to discuss their succession plans for Eddie Jones’ departure as England head coach but insists clarity over the nature of the role is needed. Exeter’s director of rugby has indicated for the first time that he would talk to the Rugby Football Union as they search for the right coaching team to take over from Jones after next year’s World Cup.

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Baxter is a contender on the strength of his success at Sandy Park, while the RFU’s desire to appoint an Englishman and willingness to consider candidates without international experience also enhance his prospects. But he insists his suitability – and that of rivals such as Steve Borthwick and Richard Cockerill – hinges on the job specification.

“I would be happy to have a chat about what the role is, how they see it working and what their plans and ambitions are,” Baxter said about the England vacancy post the 2023 World Cup. “Unless you know what it is, it’s hard to say yes or no to anything. At the same time, I’m not looking for another job! I’m very happy here.

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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots
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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots

“If you could ask every director of rugby or head coach across the Premiership, we would probably all say the same thing: ‘We don’t really know what the job is’. If you look across the Premiership we are all in slightly different places. Me personally now, I probably haven’t done any real, solid, on-field coaching for two years.

“What role is it? Is it a DoR-type role? Someone who brings in a coaching team and is prepared to work with those guys? Is it an on-field guy, blowing a whistle and directing how the team are actually playing? What do they want to see? Then you might genuinely see guys saying, ‘Right, that is a role for me’ or ‘that is not a role for me’.

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“That is part of the issue – is it that they want to find the guy first and he fits into a role he is comfortable with and is good at, or is it that they will say, ‘We want this kind of person and this is what the role has to be’? That would clarify the position for most of the English coaches.”

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The RFU’s strong preference to recruit an English candidate with a view to him shadowing Jones in France next year would appear to rule out Andy Farrell, Mark McCall and Warren Gatland. Baxter, however, sees no reason to limit the nationality to just England-only. “I’m not one of these people who says the England coach must be English,” he said.

“It’s good that they’re looking within the English game because if you look historically there has been a preference to ignore Premiership coaches. But I don’t think it’s a prerequisite that it has to be an Englishman at all. It’s nice that’s the way they’re talking and it puts some meat on the bones about trying to develop coaches within the English game. I certainly don’t see it as a negative.”

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