World Cup winner White throws his hat into RFU ring


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The Independent Online

Jake White, the South African coach who guided the Springboks to a world title four years ago, threw his hat into the England ring yesterday

He thereby joins the likes of his countryman Nick Mallett, the Australian strategist Eddie Jones and Jim Mallinder of Northampton as a contender to replace Martin Johnson as red-rose coach. But like everyone else, White has no clear idea of what the ring looks like, or even if there will be a ring at all in a few weeks' time.

The continuing hangover from the World Cup campaign, intensified to migraine levels by last week's leaking of three reports into events in New Zealand, grew worse still yesterday when it was revealed that the discredited former chairman Martyn Thomas could be in line for a six-figure bonus despite the fact that he will leave the RFU in the middle of next month after fierce criticism from fellow management board and council members. If this proves to be the case, the governing body will be accused of rewarding failure and find itself even more of a laughing stock than it is already.

Then there is this Friday's council meeting at Twickenham, where members will begin discussions of a "turkeys and Christmas" nature following the tabling of a report into rugby governance by the legal firm, Slaughter and May, which proposes a dramatic cut in the size of the council – down to 25 from the best part of 60 – and an enhanced role for independent non-executive directors. This debate will not be concluded until the summer, which means seven more months of administrative uncertainty.

White, whose name will be one of those under consideration when the union's board of directors meet to discuss the way forward on Wednesday, said yesterday that while he was contracted to the Brumbies, the Australian Super 15 franchise, and was enjoying life in Canberra, he missed coaching at international level. "During the World Cup there were times when I thought it would be wonderful to be back on that stage and I'm sure if the opportunity came about, I'd like to do it again," he said.

"I don't know how I'd react if I was called by the RFU: you never know until you are in that situation. But all coaches want to test themselves against the best and when you've won one World Cup, you'd like to win a second. I see England as a sleeping giant. They have to get themselves a winner, someone the players respect because he's been there and done it. Whoever does the job could have a very successful time with a very powerful rugby nation."

Meanwhile, James Haskell, the England flanker currently playing club rugby in Japan, is taking legal action against the Dunedin hotel chambermaid at the centre of harassment allegations that undermined the World Cup effort and led to Haskell and the wing Chris Ashton receiving suspended fines of £5,000 from the RFU. One of the leaked reports, compiled by the players' union, claims the England management pressured the players into paying the chambermaid almost £15,000 in compensation – a course of action rejected by the accused, who insisted they had done nothing wrong.