Henry in the frame for a short-term fix
World Cup-winning coach rules himself out of replacing Johnson full-time but a Six Nations stint could work
The World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry's availability on a short-term contract may suit the Rugby Football Union as they search for someone to lead England into the Six Nations' Championship in 11 weeks' time.
In the wake of Martin Johnson's resignation as England manager there is pressure on the RFU to set a clear path towards their hosting of the next World Cup in 2015. But it is a question of how quickly they can get their ducks in a row. The professional rugby director, Rob Andrew, is to lead a selection panel including two representatives of the Premiership clubs, charged with recommending Johnson's successor.
But the RFU are also busy interviewing for a chief executive, who would be the new coach's ultimate boss. The new CEO's name is due to be put to the RFU board on 14 December and the appointee is likely to have to serve notice, taking the whole process uncomfortably near the naming of a revised England squad on 1 January and the first Six Nations match, in Scotland on 4 February.
Northampton's Jim Mallinder appears to be the outstanding English candidate, but Saints would fight an exit in mid-season. Henry, whose seven years as the All Blacks' head coach ended with the World Cup final victory four weeks ago, has said he wants to live in New Zealand and he is thinking only of "an association with a European club or union on a very part-time basis". He suggested a stint of 10 weeks in the next few months, perhaps broken into chunks of three or four weeks.
Eddie O'Sullivan and Eddie Jones, former coaches of Ireland and Australia respectively, have declared an interest. Nick Mallett ruled himself out on Thursday and it is believed the former South Africa coach has received a lucrative offer to join the French club Lyon next summer. As reported here last month, the RFU have considered using a coach from their Saxons, Under-20, Under-18 or Sevens sides – Stuart Lancaster, Rob Hunter, John Fletcher and Ben Ryan respectively – for the Six Nations.
The RFU may yet try to sway the choice Andrew's panel plumps for with a pot of money. Henry travels to London this week to coach the Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday. Mallett has a similar role with a southern-hemisphere team in the Heroes Rugby Challenge at Twickenham a week later.
But as Johnson returned to his two young children, Henry revealed how family torment over New Zealand's 2007 World Cup defeat by France would deter him from another full-time appointment. "You have everything about the team to occupy you, whereas your family haven't got anything to do – so they worry a lot," he said. "They worry about you. My two boys arrived in Cardiff the night before the match [against France in 2007]. There were a lot of tears – apart from me, of course. I don't cry."
The 65-year-old former Wales and Auckland coach also had regrets over his coaching of the 2001 British and Irish Lions, captained by Johnson, who lost the Test series in Australia 2-1. "I was desperate to win and that got in the way of the process. I would advise whoever coaches the 2013 Lions to involve the players in the coaching of the team. We [in 2001] were a good side and would have done the business if I'd done the job better.
"To be an excellent coach your expectation of the group of players needs to be right on the button," Henry added. "Be clear in your body language, and what you expect. To make coaching your career, you need stickability and tenacity to hang in there during difficult times to survive and learn. Use other people because you can't do it all by yourself."
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