England chief executive floats idea of sending potential coaches to Georgia

England chief executive Bill Sweeney has floated the idea of sending potential national coaches to Georgia to learn the ropes.
England chief executive Bill Sweeney has floated the idea of sending potential national coaches to Georgia to learn the ropes. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

England Rugby’s chief executive Bill Sweeney has floated the idea of placing coaches at second-tier nations such as Georgia to groom them for the England job.

Speaking a week after England wrapped up a 2-1 Test series win against Australia Down Under, Sweeney suggested that a long-term coaching succession plan would not be realised until at least 2027 but stressed the importance of fast-tracking candidates to replace the current head coach, Eddie Jones, by trying to give them international experience. 

“How do we influence their [candidates] career development, working with clubs, because they all benefit from that coach development as well?” he said.

“Do you try and place an English coach as head coach of Georgia for a while? Do you try and get a coach to go down to a coaching operation, and there have been a few, in Australia?

“New Zealand tends to be a bit more closed, but how do we give them the international exposure that you probably need to have to compete at the highest international level?

“Longer term, we need to make sure that we are developing all of those coaches to be the best coaches they can be in a high-pressure, international environment.”

Jones’s tenure in charge of England is set to conclude at the end of next year’s World Cup in France, with a successor yet unknown.

The bookies’ favourite is current Leicester Tigers director of rugby Steve Borthwick but the likes of Ireland’s Andy Farrell, Munster’s Graham Rowntree and even La Rochelle’s Ronan O’Gara have also been touted.

Initially, the plan was to have a crossover period whereby the new boss would work with Jones in a transition phase.

But that looks unlikely now with just one year to go until the changeover.

Sweeney’s comments indicate a willingness to cooperate in some capacity with tier two rugby nations – after all, Jones got the England job after his spell with Japan.

But the suggestion of using Georgia as a feeder team for coaches is a radical one, with the eastern Europeans developing well on their own – they beat Italy earlier this month.

“We haven’t [spoken to Georgia], but all the emerging nations will say, there have been a couple here recently, ‘how do we work closer together?’” Sweeney added,

“One way that we can work closer together is in coach development. It’s an opportunity, an avenue that I think we haven’t used in the past.

“[Former England coach] Andy Robinson is in Romania now, but that was under his own steam. I don’t see why we can’t build that into our overall coach development program.”

Having been part of the Stuart Lancaster era – judged as disappointing by most – Owen Farrell’s father Andy has had a strong period in charge of Ireland, taking them to the world No1 spot.

“He’s doing well, isn’t he? A couple of years ago, he wasn’t doing so well and there was a lot of pressure around him at the time,” Sweeney said.

“He’s regarded very highly but we also have a huge respect for the Irish Rugby Football Union. He’s under contract through to ’23 and then whatever happens after 2023, happens after 23.”