x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Mallinder and Venter two RFU should review

With Martin Johnson history, the English Rugby Football Union's short-list of candidates will hopefully include Jim Mallinder, of the Northampton Saints, and the South African, Brendan Venter.

When the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) get around to deciding how to replace Martin Johnson, they might ask themselves whether a rugby coach is best suited to the job, or a schoolmaster.

Johnson's spell in charge was undermined by the way some of his players acted like unruly children during the World Cup.

He was not the first one. Brian Ashton, Johnson's forebear at the previous World Cup, was also undone by the whims of his players.

In between the two, the lunatics took over the asylum, resulting in an acrimonious tour of New Zealand and its lurid headlines.

If Johnson, surely the most highly-regarded man in English rugby history, cannot garner the respect of his players, then who can?

There are two outstanding candidates. In the space of four years, attack-minded Jim Mallinder has taken the Northampton Saints from the National League to a Heineken Cup final. Mallinder might have the ear of the players, seeing as he had many of them under his charge in his previous role with the England academy.

If they have to go foreign, the RFU should try to persuade Brendan Venter, the South African general practitioner come rugby hardman, to return to the UK. Venter converted Saracens into English champions, turning the dressing room from a transit lounge into a commune in the process.

The chances of him returning to London are as slim as they are of the RFU wanting to appoint him, but he would be an exciting choice to lead the new England.