Adam Hathaway says that the RFU should get the cheque book out and sign up Warren Gatland to succeed Eddie Jones and lauds a Welsh No.10
Not for the first time at RugbySpy Towers we have chucked away our crystal ball after predicting that the Saracens squad would be deep enough to get them through the Six Nations unscathed.
Last week we lobbed that one out in this column and after Gloucester beat the Premiership champions 30-24 at Kingsholm on Friday night we lobbed the crystal ball into the green bag and left it outside the front door for the recycling people to pick up.
So we have just tea leaves to use to predict the future………..how about Warren Gatland becoming England head coach at some point down the line? He put in a decent job application for the post on Saturday in Cardiff when Wales beat England 21-13 to leave them being the only team who have a chance of winning the Six Nations Grand Slam.
Gatland was an honorary Welshman long before the events at the Principality Stadium but we wonder if the New Zealander might fancy a crack at becoming an honorary Englishman sometime in the future.
Here’s the deal.
Gatland is leaving the Welsh head honcho’s job after the World Cup and might fancy a bit of time off at his beach house in Waihi on New Zealand’s north island. A decent place to put your feet up for a year.
He might fancy a crack at being head coach of the British & Irish Lions for the third time when they go to South Africa in 2021.
And guess what?
Eddie Jones is signed up to the RFU until………errr 2021. Plan A was that Jones might mentor his successor, after he extended his current contract from the original 2019 plan, post the Japan jamboree at the end of the year but as we saw at the weekend England don’t have a plan B on or off the field.
So here is one – England should go balls out to get Gatland as Jones’ successor. There are not too many better coaches around.
A personal view is that the next boss should be English but no-one has put their hand up for it. Rob Baxter, the brilliant director of rugby at Exeter, doesn’t fancy it, Dean Richards, a hero of RugbySpy, doesn’t fancy it, Twickenham blazers would not fancy Steve Diamond from Sale and that is about it.
Gatland is only 55 and has plenty of miles left in the tank and the new chief executive of the RFU, Bill Sweeney, should probably get hold of his mobile phone number sharpish and splash some cash.
Gatland, with his right-hand man Shaun Edwards, has won three Premiership titles with Wasps plus a European Cup. He has won a couple of Six Nations Grand Slams with Wales and three overall titles and there is every chance he will add to that number this season now they have Scotland away and Ireland at home to negotiate.
He also got Wales to a World Cup semi-final in New Zealand in 2011 and pooped England’s party good and proper at the 2015 tournament when they beat the tournament hosts 28-25.
He has won a Lions series in Australia as the gaffer in 2013, and tied a series as the main man against the All Blacks in 2017 but still doesn’t seem to get the credit he deserves. Gatland has been around the block with Galwegians, Connacht, Ireland, Wasps, Waikato, the Chiefs and the Lions and done a bit with Wales too. There are not too many better CVs out there in the world game and if there are then whoever owns them should send them to Twickenham pronto.
And Gatland loves the game. It is hard to see a bloke of his age hanging up his coaching boots even if he does take a year’s sabbatical to do Lions duty.
He is good value with the press but he is better value with the players. He flummoxed England with Wales’ pick and go tactics on Saturday as the Welsh matched fire with fire and nullified the physical threat of the visitors.
As he said to the hack pack afterwards: “You guys were all talking England up, saying there was going to be 15 points in it. We knew exactly where we were. I said to the players England had no idea what animal was turning up this week but we did. I’ve been involved with a lot of teams and Friday’s captain’s run was as good as I’ve ever seen. “We said before we left the hotel that we would win today because we’ve forgotten how to lose.”
He is not wrong there.
Wales have strung together a record-breaking run since their last defeat against Ireland in Dublin in the spring on 2018. That is 12 wins on the bounce for Gatland’s crew and continued a depressing sequence for England of having lost to Wales in 1949, 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009.
And it was a bit of a turnaround after a win over a clueless France, when Wales turned on the after burners in the second half in Paris, in the first round of games, and a disjointed victory over Italy when Gatland rung the changes.
He is smarter than the average bear Gatland. In this Six Nations campaign he has tried to mimic a World Cup campaign whilst still maintaining an unbeaten record.
For starters he did not take his Welsh team home from France, he took them on a training jaunt to Nice before they headed for Rome, for the second round match against Italy, and he played his cards very cannily ahead of the England clash.
Wales were coming for England and they came for them big time and the two teams could easily end up being involved in a World Cup knock out game in Japan. Then the mind games will really start.
And Gatland has started them already.
“When it’s really mattered, I’ve questioned whether they can win these big games,” he said.
England could win some big games with Gatland in charge. Time to get the cheque book out Sweeney and get Gatland signed up post 2021.
One of Gatland’s masterstrokes in Saturday’s win over England was the introduction of Dan Biggar at fly half with an hour gone on the clock.
Biggar lives up to Sir Ian McGeechan’s description of a test match animal and he proved it with knobs on. Sir Clive Woodward described Biggar as a superstar for his game-changing interventions and he was not far off the mark.
Alun Wyn Jones, Owen Farrell and Peter O’Mahony are all Test match animals. Biggar is in the same frame.
The 29-year-old Biggar came on in full metal jacket in Cardiff and destroyed the English. He can play for sure and it was a timely nudge to his boss that he can boss big games.
Biggar was a towering figure at the weekend, when he came off for Gareth Anscombe, even though he only played the last quarter.
If there is a better player at gathering the ball from his own kick let us know and if there is a better player at closing out a game then you have got our details.
It is a pretty handy thing to have going into a World Cup for Gatland and we, at RugbySpy Towers, are not counting them out of anything when the shake-up happens in Japan.
Gatland likes a bet. We bet he won’t be leaving Biggar to cool his heels in Northampton when the World Cup is on.