Smith's exit starts hunt for coach

Morgan and Kear among the names on RFL shortlist to head England set-up
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The search has begun for the successor to Tony Smith as England coach, after his announcement that he will not seek a renewal of his contract when it expires at the end of this month.

The writing has been on the wall since March when Smith took the coaching job at Warrington – returning to what he really relishes, the day-to-day contact with players in a club setting. That did not sit easily with his national role and Smith said yesterday that his decision was largely to do with the strain on his family life.

"After talking to them, it was clear that it was very difficult for me to cover the demands of both the club and international game," he said.

Nor was the situation satisfactory for the Rugby League, which sees England as a full-time job.

That will make it fiendishly difficult to find the right man. In an ideal world, the successor would already be in the system, but Smith's assistant, Steve McNamara, does not have the form on the board with Bradford. The same could be said for Brian McDermott at Harlequins.

Two other club coaches whose names will crop up in discussions are Justin Morgan and John Kear, who have guided Hull KR and Wakefield respectively to relative success.

Morgan is another Australian and seems very settled at Rovers, while Kear has already had and lost the England job. He is a more mature coach these days, however, and has a knack of lifting players for one-off games.

Once you look outside the ranks of the currently employed, the name of Ellery Hanley will come up. He has been out of the game since resigning at Doncaster at the end of last season.

He too has had the job in the past and opinions vary about his coaching credentials, but he still has an undeniable aura about him.

Whoever takes over will inherit a mixed legacy from Smith. His reign started with a 3-0 series victory over a poor Kiwi side, but last year's World Cup debacle is a blot on his record.

England improved in this autumn's Four Nations and the successful candidate will have noted that much of it was due to putting faith in some talented young players.

The nucleus of a side for next year's Four Nations in Australia is in place and the new man will probably be given a contract taking in the 2013 World Cup. That makes it all the more vital that the RFL gets it right.

Hit and miss: Tony Smith

* March 2007 Appointed England coach on the understanding that he finishes season with Leeds.

*Nov 2007 Completes 3-0 series win over touring New Zealand.

*Nov 2008 Ignominious departure from World Cup after losing to Australia and twice to New Zealand.

*March 2009 Becomes part-time England coach after taking job at Warrington.

*Nov 2009 Reaches Four Nations final and decides to stand down.