Edinburgh’s Richard Cockerill emerges as shock contender to succeed Eddie Jones at England

Richard Cockerill has impressed the RFU with his work at Edinburgh. Pic: SNS
Richard Cockerill has impressed the RFU with his work at Edinburgh. Pic: SNS
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The English Rugby Football Union is monitoring the performance of Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill, who has emerged as a shock contender to become the new England boss when Eddie Jones’ reign ends.

Nigel Melville, the RFU’s interim chief executive and the director tasked with finding a successor for Jones, has spoken of his admiration for Cockerill’s work at BT Murrayfield.

The ex-Leicester and former England hooker is understood to be on a long-list that also includes Joe Worsley and Steve Borthwick, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Jones has a contract as England coach until 2021, but would depart next autumn if England do not meet expectations at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Cockerill’s link to one of world rugby’s top jobs comes as something of a surprise despite the good work he has done at Edinburgh. However, he did lead the Capital outfit to a third-place finish in last season’s Guinness PRO14 and has guided them to two wins out of three in this season’s Heineken Cup – the latest being a convincing victory over Newcastle on Friday.

Jones’ replacement was until recently expected to be a manager with international pedigree, but the success of an up-and-coming coach at England’s football team in Gareth Southgate has caused a rethink at Twickenham, with a younger, enthusiastic home-grown coach now becoming more likely.

Melville told the Sunday Telegraph: “Cockerill has done an amazing job in Edinburgh, did you think he’d do a really job up there? I questioned whether he would but actually he’s done a really good job.

“There are these young guys around that you sometimes don’t think about – Joe Worsley has done a great job in Bordeaux, he’s head coach now and it’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

“Steve Borthwick (England assistant coach) did some great work going down to various countries, obviously working with Japan. I’m sure Steve would be interested in the head coach job. He’s a good developing coach and he knows international rugby pretty well now.

“He (Southgate) has played on that (being English). Eddie accepts that, the English piece, and Englishness is important, essential.”

“We want a heavyweight international coach or a potential international heavyweight coach that is going to develop into an international coach, but I want a coach. One who understands culture and the importance of culture.

“We have seen many coaches come in, the southern hemisphere (coach) going into clubs where they bring a southern hemisphere culture with them and it doesn’t fit our culture and the team don’t perform.”

Cockerill’s chances of landing the job have also been boosted after the two most successful coaches in England’s Gallagher Premiership – Mark McCall, the Ulsterman who has masterminded Saracens’ success, and Exeter’s Rob Baxter – last week both ruled themselves out of contention for the job.

Speaking before Melville’s quotes in the Sunday Telegraph, Cockerill was asked about the England job on Matt Dawson’s BBC Radio show, but he played down his chances.

“I am not sure that is a conversation the union will be having with me anytime soon,” Cockerill said last Thursday.

“It is a really hard one. Guys have come out in the last few days and said they are probably not interested.

“It is such a high-pressure job and it is almost sometimes a hiding to nothing.

“When you are in a really good DOR (director of rugby) job at your club and enjoying it, I am not sure for some guys it is that tempting to leave the day-in, day-out work of club rugby, which is great fun.”