RFU hit by Farrell rejection: Loyalty to Saracens opens door to former All Blacks coach Smith
21:09 GMT, 12 April 2012
The RFU are accelerating their pursuit
of former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith after Saracens confirmed Andy
Farrell has rejected the offer of a role in Stuart Lancaster’s England
As revealed in Thursday’s Sportsmail,
the ex-Great Britain rugby league captain has decided that after just
two-and-a-half years as a coach with the Aviva Premiership champions, he
wants to take more time to develop in the club game before taking up a
full-time post at Test level.
The news he has turned down the
union’s approach is the first significant setback for Lancaster as he
attempts to build on his impressive caretaker stint during the Six
Centre of attention: England's hopes of retaining Farrell appear over
Less than two months before the first
Test against the Springboks in South Africa, urgent reinforcements are
required in England’s hierarchy, which as it stands will feature
Lancaster and just one assistant, forwards coach Graham Rowntree.
understands the RFU have already begun the Plan B process of hastening
their attempts to lure Smith from Waikato Chiefs. The former Northampton
coach was an experienced side-kick to Graham Henry as New Zealand won
the World Cup at home last year.
Smith has long been linked with an
England coaching job, having indicated his desire to return to
international rugby from September — after the first year of his
contract with the Chiefs — and an apparent willingness to work for
Lancaster, despite his novice status in Test terms. It is thought that,
having become resigned to Farrell’s impending rejection, the RFU have
begun exploring the possibility of recruiting their Kiwi target sooner
than had been thought possible.
Target: Moves to lure Wayne Smith will be put in motion
When Saracens announced that they had
kept their man, Farrell, 36, said: ‘It has been a special privilege to
be involved in the Saracens coaching staff for the past two-and-a-half
‘We have made decent progress during
this period but as a club we have barely scratched the surface of our
potential. The job isn’t anywhere near half done, and I have decided I
want to help finish the job.’
Officially, those reasons fully
explain Farrell’s decision, although being happily settled with his
young family in Hertfordshire was another factor. However, Saracens are
known to have been infuriated by the lack of RFU urgency during
negotiations so it is possible that the painfully drawn-out process
allowed the club time to talk their coach round.
Challenging start: Stuart Lancaster faces a tough job to replace Farrell
Lancaster had made plain his desire to
continue working with both Farrell and Rowntree, so this is an early
blow for his regime.
However, the party line from
Twickenham was philosophical, with RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie
saying: ‘While Andy was an important part of the coaching team during
the Six Nations, we respect his wishes to continue as a coach at
Saracens. We will continue to work hard with Stuart Lancaster to build a
world-class coaching team as we look towards the World Cup.’
While that tournament is the distant
focal point, the pressing matter is arranging a coaching team for the
three-Test South Africa tour. Sources in New Zealand last night
indicated that Smith remains adamant he will not leave the Chiefs during
the current Super 15 season.
Eliminated: Saracens were dumped out of the Heineken Cup at the weekend
However, there is a potential window
of opportunity, as the southern-hemisphere competition has a three-week
rest period for the June internationals — from June 2 until June 29.
England play the Springboks on June 9, 16 and 23 so the RFU could raise
the notion of Smith joining the national team in South Africa on
secondment from the Chiefs before taking up a full-time role later in
the summer. It would not be ideal for either party, but it would allow
him to familiarise himself with the squad.
Crucially, he is not the man in charge
at Waikato — that is Dave Rennie. The RFU are sure to be able to offer
significant financial incentives to engineer a deal prior to the date of
the Super 15 final on August 4.
Meanwhile, Gloucester head coach Bryan
Redpath is understood to have agreed terms to join his former club Sale
as director of rugby this summer. However, he has another year left on
his contract and his employers are thought to be unaware of his