Best balks at taking over from Mitchell

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The Independent Online

Dick Best has always said what he thinks, and he always thinks before he says anything. So when faced with speculation about the London Irish director of rugby succeeding John Mitchell as the England forwards coach, his words were not minced. "I have no intention of being an assistant coach to anyone again," Best said as he broke off from overseeing the Exiles' preparations for this weekend's Tetley's Bitter Cup semi-final against Northampton at Reading's Madejski Stadium.

"Being appointed forwards coach means there would have to be someone above you. I would only think about the idea if I were in charge. I have not been an assistant coach since the 1993 Lions tour. If I were ever to be interested it would only be as the England coach."

On the topic of the Lions, who have yet to appoint their coaching team for next summer's 10-match tour of Australia, Best was also less than keen to put himself in the running for the job of coach.

"It would be very flattering to be asked," added Best, whose contract with London Irish runs for another year, "but I am very happy here. The Premiership involves a great deal of time, especially between June and the start of the domestic season, when the Lions tour takes place.

"I remember Ian McGeechan coming back from the last tour and Northampton losing something like five of the first six Premiership matches. I don't ever want to be in that position. I do not want to forsake the day job here, as it were.

"I cannot understand why the Lions do not appoint the coaches now. There is so much riding on this tour. This is a trip to take on the world champions. You have to take it seriously. It is not just a matter of the coach picking 36 players.

"Someone has to go out there to check on accommodation arrangements, training facilities, travel. I toyed about as an honorary England selector and I found it quite demanding, it ate into my time."

The Exiles are believed to have had talks with the Scotland fly-half Gregor Townsend, who is to leave the French club Brive at the end of the season.

It has been revealed that Wales' talented young full-back, Rhys Williams, made his debut against Ireland at the weekend despite suffering from a painful shoulder injury. The 20 year old intends playing through the pain barrier on the development tour of Canada and North America in June.

Craig Quinnell's operation for a double stress fracture of his back has been a success, but he is not expected to be back in action before January 2001.