What Would a Homegrown List of Six Nations Coaches Look Like?
With a week off between the second and third rounds of Six Nations matches in this 2016 championship, the pause in battle provided an opportunity to review the standard of play we have seen from the teams so far.
Many in the media have been scathing about the quality.
Following the Rugby World Cup 2015, in which the northern hemisphere at times seemed light years away from the level displayed by the top four in the south, we were always destined to lurch into this year’s championship still trying to shake off that hangover.
England, the biggest let-down of the lot, appointed a new coach in Australian Eddie Jones, completing a quartet of Antipodean coaches for the home nations. With Frenchman Jacques Brunel in charge of Italy, it leaves just France with a "native" at the top.
It is the long-accepted view that the best coaches hail from down south by virtue of the fact they have won all but one of the Rugby World Cups, and their record against the best sides in Europe makes for happy reading for fans of the big three.
Only Australia have dallied with an overseas coaching appointment, and even they only cast the net as far as across the Tasman Sea to appoint Robbie Deans in 2007.
And yet, with four of the brightest brains from the southern hemisphere coaching in the Six Nations, the standard has yet to improve enough for any of these sides to contest a World Cup final, and this year the fare served up has been widely panned.
These things go in cycles—we’ve seen as much in English football, with the national team flip-flopping from foreign manager to homegrown man.
And it may be that the next time the top jobs come up for grabs in the home nations, it will be time to revert to homegrown coaches.
There are some vastly experienced men with admirable playing CVs and burgeoning coaching credentials who deserve a shot.
B/R runs the rule over five possible coaching teams who would hail from the countries they could take charge of.
England deliberately went in search of a coach with proven international experience when they looked for Stuart Lancaster's replacement.
Unless they were going to go back to Sir Clive Woodward, that effectively ruled out an English appointment.
Had they looked to the Aviva Premiership, they would have found a clutch of men with plenty of club success who perhaps deserved a chance at the top job.
The pick would have been Rob Baxter, who has taken his Exeter Chiefs from the second tier into the upper echelons of the top flight.
Alongside Baxter there is Saints boss Jim Mallinder, who has had time in charge of the Saxons—the stepping stone Lancaster used—as well as Richard Cockerill at Leicester and Dean Ryan of Worcester, who has proven himself an erudite observer of the game through his role with Sky Sports and his Guardian column.
And let's not forget Shaun Edwards, whom the RFU were foolish to let slip across the Severn Bridge to Wales in 2008.
For a sharper edge in attack, Northampton's backs guru Alex King was also mentioned as a candidate and reportedly approached to be part of Eddie Jones' team, per Sky Sports.
England's all-English coaching team
Head coach: Rob Baxter
Forwards: Richard Cockerill
Defence: Shaun Edwards
Attack: Alex King
Wales might be the favourites to return to a Welshman if and when Warren Gatland calls it a day.
When the New Zealander took on the job of coaching the 2013 British and Irish Lions, Rob Howley took on the head coaching role, and Wales set about dismantling England to snatch the Six Nations from their grasp on the final night in Cardiff.
Howley remains at at the right hand of Gatland, and he must be odds-on to re-assume the crown some day.
If not rivalled by Wasps chief Dai Young for the top post, he could be joined by his old Lions mate, who could act as forwards coach if Robin McBryde were to move on.
The Ospreys' Steve Tandy is still a young man at the age of 36 and may well have a place in the national set-up in the future.
Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones could provide attacking expertise. The ex-Ospreys boss has previously served as backs coach at the Dragons before returning to the region in his current role.
England's all-English coaching team
Head coach: Rob Howley
Forwards: Dai Young/Robin McBryde
Defence: Steve Tandy
Attack: Lyn Jones
Vern Cotter might at least be driving the train down the right track for Scotland, but they are still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.
But for the longer term, surely Gregor Townsend has to be on the SRU's agenda. The former Lions No. 10 has been steering Glasgow impressively in the Pro 12, delivering the league title to the second city last season. His name must be at the top of the list for the job after Cotter ends his reign.
Townsend could be ably assisted by Bryan Redpath, his former half-back colleague. Redpath has held the top job at Sale as well as the roles of backs coach and head coach at Gloucester.
Currently director of Rugby at Yorkshire Carnegie, he could assist Townsend, as could another former Scotland fly-half in Duncan Hodge, who took up the backs coaching role at Edinburgh last year.
Ex-Scotland lock Nathan Hines (yes, we know he is Australian) is serving as something called Resource Coach in Cotter's regime and could conceivably act as forwards coach given his years of experience.
Scotland's all-Scottish coaching team
Head coach: Gregor Townsend
Forwards: Nathan Hines
Defence: Bryan Redpath
Attack: Duncan Hodge
Conor O'Shea is hotly tipped to be the next man in charge of Italy, per the Telegraph, having announced this season will be his last in charge at Harlequins.
The former London Irish man has already worked for the RFU and the English Institute of Sport.
A stint in charge of Italy may be just the finishing school he needs to pass muster for the Irish head coaching role.
There is no shortage of gnarled forward nous he could call upon to help. Both Anthony Foley and Leo Cullen are in charge of Munster and Leinster respectively, and either man could look after the pack.
Ronan O'Gara has slipped quickly into the role of defence coach at Racing 92 and was touted as the next man in that role for Ireland when Les Kiss departed for Ulster, per SportsJoe.ie.
He is surely destined for a job back with the national team at some point in his coaching career. The credentials of former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman, also doing well in France as coach of Grenoble.
As for attack? Why not make a bid to bring the greatest attacking talent ever to pull the Irish jersey on?
Ireland's all-Irish coaching team
Head coach: Conor O'Shea
Forwards: Anthony Foley
Defence: Ronan O'Gara
Attack: Brian O'Driscoll
He is not Italian by birth and even played twice for his native Argentina, but rules about nation-hopping weren't as tight as they are now (are they tight now?), and Diego Dominguez amassed 74 caps and 983 points for the Azzurri.
Next season, he will succeed Bernard Laporte as head coach of Toulon and is at the club now, being shown the ropes by the outgoing Frenchman, per ESPN.
He is as green as they come in terms of coaching experience, but he would be an inspirational leader of his adopted country.
Alongside him, he could call on the passion of the likes of Alessandro Troncon, currently coaching Italy's under-20s, and perhaps the years in the engine room of Marco Bortolami, who is reaching the end of his playing days.
Italy's all-Italian coaching team
Head coach: Diego Dominguez
Forwards: Marco Bortolami
Defence: Alessandro Troncon
Attack: This is Dominguez's domain