In Brief

Clive Woodward: RFU must get behind Eddie Jones, not discuss his successor

Injured Itoje set for spell on the sidelines but should be fit for the Six Nations

Clive Woodward says the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has scored another “own goal” by discussing potential replacements for England head coach Eddie Jones.

Last week the RFU’s interim chief executive Nigel Melville revealed that a number of coaches were on the England radar for when Jones’s contract expires in 2021. Among the possible candidates are former coach Stuart Lancaster and Wales chief Warren Gatland.

Woodward, who led England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003, believes the timing was bad for the succession plan discussions. He says all focus should be on the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Woodward said: “What on earth are the RFU doing fuelling talk of who will replace Eddie Jones? It’s a complete distraction and another own goal from Twickenham.

“With 2019 approaching, who cares who is taking over? The union should be more concerned that Newcastle, Exeter, Bath, Wasps and Leicester all lost in Europe this weekend - it’s not all plain sailing in English rugby on or off the pitch.

“Eddie is the coach for this World Cup, he is contracted until 2021 but, if successful, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be in charge until 2023. There’s no panic. The RFU must get totally behind this coach, this captain and this team. We shouldn’t be thinking about replacements.”

Cockerill in the mix

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill is a “surprise contender” to replace Eddie Jones, The Daily Telegraph reports.

After being sacked by Leicester Tigers in January 2017, Cockerill has “rebuilt his reputation north of the border”. He led Edinburgh to a third-place finish in the Pro 14 last season.

Itoje will be fit for the Six Nations

England lock Maro Itoje is set for a four- to eight-week spell on the sidelines because of a knee injury.

However, Saracens coach Mark McCall expects the 24-year-old to be ready for England’s 2019 Six Nations campaign. McCall told the BBC: “From what I have been told, 100% he will be fit for the start of the Six Nations.”

England travel to Dublin to face Ireland in their first Six Nations match on Saturday 2 February.  

2019 Six Nations championship fixtures
  • 1 February: France vs. Wales (8pm) 
  • 2 February: Scotland vs. Italy (2.15pm); Ireland vs. England (4.45pm) 
  • 9 February: Scotland vs. Ireland (2.15pm); Italy vs. Wales (4.45pm) 
  • 10 February: England vs. France (3pm) 
  • 23 February: France vs. Scotland (2.15pm); Wales vs. England (4.45pm) 
  • 24 February: Italy vs. Ireland (3pm) 
  • 9 March: Scotland vs. Wales (2.15pm); England vs. Italy (3pm) 
  • 10 March: Ireland vs. France (4.45pm) 
  • 16 March: Italy vs. France (12.30pm); Wales vs. Ireland (2.45pm) 
  • 17 March: England vs. Scotland (5pm)

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