England may come calling for Welsh coaching staff

WRU desperate to head off red rose approaches and retain Gatland and Edwards for 2015 cup

The players are the least of the problems facing the Welsh Rugby Union right now: they fully intend to make the most of this Friday's World Cup play-off for third place against the Wallabies. "It's a chance for us to beat a major southern hemisphere power in this part of the world, so we'll train hard and give it a proper crack," said the button-bright teenage wing George North – and in the longer term, those with a realistic chance of appearing at the next global gathering in 2015 are already contracted up to their eyeballs. The coaching staff? Ah. That's a different story.

According to Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the governing body, work will begin next week on retaining the services of a back-room team who pressed all the right buttons during this current tournament and would now be plotting and planning for an infinitely bigger concluding match but for two profoundly unfortunate events in the opening 18 minutes of last weekend's semi-final with France: the loss of the tight-head prop Adam Jones to injury and of the captain Sam Warburton to a red card. "We have a board meeting next Thursday," said Lewis. "The coaching situation will be the first job we tackle – top of the list. This is the first golden age of Welsh rugby in the professional era and we want it to continue."

Ironically enough, Lewis himself is being talked of as a possible candidate for the CEO position at Twickenham – a role currently being performed on an interim basis by Martyn Thomas, the former chairman of the Rugby Football Union and by some distance the single most controversial figure in English sporting governance. But that little knot can be untied another day. The priority now is to ensure that Warren Gatland stays as head coach of Wales for the next four years, in line with the contract extension the New Zealander signed last October, and that his second in command, Shaun Edwards, agrees a new deal in the coming weeks.

Unlike Gatland, the defence strategist works primarily for someone other than the WRU: namely, the High Wycombe-based Premiership club Wasps. "Shaun has been outstanding for Welsh rugby, but we're not his principal employers," Lewis acknowledged. "We need to have a conversation with Wasps, clearly, and we won't do that until we're out of this World Cup, which, win or lose, will be on Friday. Four years ago, we had protracted negotiations with them and were able to bring in Shaun on a part-time basis – something that has been very positive both for us and for him.

"Of course, we want to do the best thing for our rugby in Wales, but as far as Shaun is concerned it has to be done properly and professionally. We have to speak to the right people at the right time and that's what will happen."

Barely a month goes by without Edwards, a rugby league performer of the stellar variety during a wildly successful playing career, being linked with a return to the 13-a-side code, but he has said during this tournament that he will not feel fulfilled as a rugby man of any description until he participates in a winning British and Irish Lions tour. The fact that the next Lions trip, to Australia in 2013, dovetails neatly with the two-year deal he agreed with Wasps back in the summer suggests he will stay in union for the foreseeable future.

So far, so straightforward. Yet complications are just around the corner. England's coaching team, badly exposed on every front during this tournament, is due a major overhaul: even if Martin Johnson, the shop-soiled manager, is given another World Cup cycle to prove himself capable of leading an international side to success at the highest level – and that would be a massively generous gesture by the grandees of the Rugby Football Union, several of whom now accept that he should not have been appointed in the first place – it is inconceivable that the "tracksuit" coaches will be retained en bloc. That being the case, Edwards will be among the first names that spring to the mind of Twickenham Man as the process of restoring some pride and dignity to the red-rose game begins in earnest.

These are difficult waters for Wales, who cannot be completely certain of hanging on to Gatland either. Lewis said he had received no expressions of interest in buying the head coach out of his long-term contract, and it is certainly true that if the All Blacks win this World Cup – regarded as a formality by the entire population of this country – the current New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen will be a very short-priced favourite to succeed Graham Henry in the top job. But might not England be interested in Gatland? He was in the thoughts of some RFU types as long ago as 2007 and there is considerable appetite at Twickenham for the appointment of a man with a proven track record of achievement at both club and Test level.

At least the Welsh can count on their own. "It would be nice to remain in a job," said Neil Jenkins, the revered "ginger monster" who played outside-half for his country at two World Cups and is currently employed as the national team's skills and kicking coach. Pressed yesterday on the situation surrounding Gatland, he said there was an urgent desire to keep the existing team together. "Warren is one of the best coaches, if not the best, in the sport – right up there with Graham Henry," he commented. "We all want him to stay and it's important that he stays. It's like keeping hold of your best players, isn't it?"

For Lewis, the challenge is to tie up any loose ends before Christmas and give the coaching team a full four-year run at the Webb Ellis Trophy when it next goes up for grabs in England. "This tournament has been a resounding success for us," the chief executive said. "The coaching team have complemented each other brilliantly and, together with this very exciting group of players, they've given our rugby a great deal of confidence and pride – a real sense that the future holds something special. I want to find a way of harnessing all that energy. As I say, the work starts next week and I believe the board will give me the kind of support I've had in the past."

Wales expect to play a "majority" of their pool matches in their own backyard at the next World Cup, even though the competition has been awarded lock, stock and barrel to England. The financial demands imposed on the hosts by the International Rugby Board mean ticket sales away from Twickenham will have to be maximised – hence the agreement to use the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for an as yet unspecified number of pool matches. Lewis said it would make business sense to give Wales some "home" games, although he accepted that a big match against another top-tier nation would have to be scheduled elsewhere.

"I think there's a good case to be made for us playing, say, a tier-two nation in Cardiff," he said – a remark likely to go down like the proverbial lead balloon in such countries as Samoa and Italy, who would fancy their chances of competing strongly against Wales on neutral territory.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing