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Vesty's Leinster audition for England

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Tackling Leinster's defence is fitting test for Vesty and his England attack coach aspirations

Following Scott Wisemantel’s departure from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), a number of names have been linked with the vacant England attack coach position, not least Northampton Saints assistant Sam Vesty.

The former Leicester Tiger and Bath player quickly gained stock as a coach at Worcester Warriors, before he headed to Northampton as part of the new coaching staff put together by director of rugby Chris Boyd. Under the Kiwi’s tutelage, Vesty has helped mould Saints into one of the most proficient attacking sides in the Gallagher Premiership.

Their 151 points and 20 tries scored have them ahead of the rest of the pack by two points after five rounds, despite losing a number of players to World Cup duty and/or injury over that period. Saints have also gone two from two in the Heineken Champions Cup, beating Lyon and Benetton, to share top spot in Pool 1 with European powerhouse Leinster.

Northampton would be in no hurry to lose Vesty to England, especially with the club having already parted ways with Alan Dickens, who is the new England under-20 head coach, nor is there any guarantee that Vesty would have the same positive effect under Eddie Jones that he currently has under Boyd.

That said, the results are speaking for themselves on the Franklin’s Gardens pitch and if the RFU want to push forward English coaches, a goal they previously set themselves after they hired Australian Jones, Vesty would have to be one of the top candidates.

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If ever there were an opportunity to impress in an audition for the role, Northampton’s upcoming back-to-back games with Leinster, arguably the team to beat in this season’s European competition, would certainly be it for Vesty and his Northampton charges.

As Saints have the most proficient attack in the Premiership, Leinster have the most stringent defence in the Guinness PRO14. After seven rounds, they are the only side left in that competition to have conceded less than 100 points and their tries conceded total of 11 is also the lowest in the tournament.

 

Finding a way to have consistent attacking success against Leinster at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday and then the Aviva Stadium a week later will likely be the biggest challenge of Vesty’s young and promising coaching career to date. If he can succeed, essentially replicating going up against an almost Test level defence, then the RFU would be mad not to explore further his potential availability moving forward.

Other names have been linked with the role, such as Glen Ella, a person and coach that Jones knows well and who has worked successfully with England before. Exeter Chiefs’ attack coach Ali Hepher helped lead the England Saxons to a 2-0 series victory in South Africa previously, while Jones and England have not been afraid to pursue Saracens coaches before, with Kevin Sorrell having done an excellent job in north London.

Vesty may not be the most experienced option available, but with Wisemantel and Neal Hatley having both left the set-up and Steve Borthwick widely reported to be moving on after the Guinness Six Nations, bringing in a younger coach with fresh ideas could be the perfect complement the seasoned duo of Jones and John Mitchell.

All eyes will be on Franklin’s Gardens this Saturday to see the blockbuster clash between the two undefeated teams, though Vesty’s influence on the outcome and his potential at a higher level makes for an interesting subplot.

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Tackling Leinster's defence is fitting test for Vesty and his England attack coach aspirations