Nick Mallett should be the next England coach, according to John Kirwan, who will not be considered for the post after being told by the Rugby Football Union's headhunters that he was not experienced enough.
Kirwan has coached at three Rugby World Cups with Italy and Japan, but knew his best chance was if the RFU wanted "a breath of fresh air" and were prepared to take "a risk" over the appointment. It was not. The headhunters Odgers Berndtson got in touch and informed Kirwan that he was not being put forward to the interview stage because he had not coached a leading rugby nation.
Kirwan was told there were two other candidates who did meet that criterion – one is likely to be Mallett, the former South Africa coach, and the other is the ex-Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan.
England's current interim coach Stuart Lancaster has also reached the interview stage. But if the RFU's brief is for a coach with sustained, top-flight international experience, then that would count against him no matter what England achieve in the remainder of the Six Nations.
"They [Odgers] contacted me saying I wouldn't go on to the next stage because they had a couple of other candidates that had more international experience than me," Kirwan said. "They were looking for someone with a higher international profile. I understand that. They started out with something in mind and they are heading down that track.
"I think Nick Mallett would be perfect for it. Nick is the ideal mix. He is highly intelligent, he understands what a team needs to win and he gets the best out of players. It will be a high-pressure situation [coaching England] into a home World Cup [in 2015]. I think Nick would be a great candidate."
The RFU will be conducting interviews over the next three weeks with a view to making an appointment before the end of the Six Nations.
Lancaster has restored a sense of pride in the national team and his work to clean up the image of English rugby has impressed Twickenham executives. But one of the key factors the RFU's new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, must weigh up before making his recommendation to the board is Lancaster's lack of international inexperience compared with the track record of a potential candidate such as Mallett or O'Sullivan.
Lancaster has been in charge for three Tests: two dogged away wins against Scotland and Italy followed by a home defeat to Wales.