England Rugby
White hints at return to international stage
ESPNscrum Staff
November 27, 2011
Consultant coach George Gregan chats with new Brumbies head coach Jake White, Brumbies training camp, Narrabeen Sport and Recreation Ground, Manly, Australia, July 25, 2011
White is currently in charge of the Brumbies where he is working alongside former Wallabies skipper George Gregan © Getty Images

Former South Africa coach Jake White has hinted he would entertain an offer to return to the international stage with England.

The 48-year-old, who steered the Springboks to the 2007 Rugby World Cup crown, is currently in charge of Canberra-based Brumbies in the Super Rugby competition but has admitted that a return to the Test match rugby with England would be a tempting offer. The Rugby Football Union is currently searching for a successor to Martin Johnson, who stepped down 11 days ago in response to a dismal campaign in New Zealand.

"You miss the highest level of competition," White told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. "During the World Cup there were times when I thought it would be wonderful to be back on this stage. I'm sure that if an opportunity came about, it's something I'd like to do again.

"I don't know how I'd react if I was called [by the RFU], one never knows until you are in that situation. All coaches want to test themselves against the best and when you've won one World Cup, you'd like to win a second. It would be a fantastic achievement to become the first coach to win two World Cups.

"I'm young enough and there's a long time ahead in my career. I'd love to get another chance of testing myself at the World Cup. To win it twice would be a real dream come true."

White also revealed he would be happy to work alongside Sir Clive Woodward, the mastermind of England's 2003 World Cup triumph who has been linked with a return to Twickenham in a director of elite rugby role. "I've chatted to Clive about coaching together," he said. "He's a very proud man who's been through the highs and lows with England and took them to the World Cup. I say this not because Clive is my friend, but it's amazing how a guy like him hasn't stayed in rugby when he's achieved the ultimate in winning the World Cup with England."

White believes "sleeping giant" England need someone with a proven track record of success to steer the team out of the doldrums. "They have to get a winner, someone who's been there and done it, someone who understands what it takes to win something special," he said. "They must get back to where they were when they were the dominant force in rugby. They do that by getting someone who the players respect for that he's been there, done it. England are a sleeping giant. Whoever gets that job right can have a very successful time with a very powerful rugby nation."

One obstacle to White's arrival at Twickenham is the four-year contract he recently signed with the Brumbies - the first coaching position he has filled since 2007 - and he does not want to betray their support in him. "I'm very happy at the Brumbies. I've committed myself to them and in the long run it will make me a better rugby coach," he said. "My Brumbies bosses have been very good to me and want me to take the team to another level. They have backed me and it's only right that I would back them in times when they might think I'd let them down."

In related news, former Lions prop Fran Cotton believes another former Bok coach - Nick Mallett - is the outstanding candidate to replace Martin Johnson as England boss. Cotton believes Mallett has all the necessary credentials but insists the highly-rated Northampton duo of Jim Mallinder and Dorian West must be part of the staff, groomed to take over themselves eventually.

"I'm a huge fan of Nick Mallett, who has been a hugely successful coach," he told Sportsweek. "Nick has coached successfully with South Africa and Stade Francais and did a great job with Italy, which wasn't an easy job. Nick has the strength of personality to do the job.

"But if we do appoint an overseas guy, then we also need to develop some of our own alongside him. To me the perfect triumvirate would be Mallett working together with Jim Mallinder and Dorian West. The aim would be for Mallinder and West to take over after the 2015 World Cup."

Mallett has previously ruled himself out of contention due to the structure at the RFU, which currently sees the coach report to a director of elite rugby - Rob Andrew - and not the management board but most recently said he would not confirm his coaching future until next year following a break from the game.

But Cotton believes the highly-regarded 55-year-old, who is in London this week as coach of the Southern Hemisphere for Saturday's match at Twickenham in aid of Help for Heroes, could be convinced to change his mind. "Very often people say no, but if we jumped on the plane to Cape Town I'm sure we could persuade him over a nice bottle of red wine in Stellenbosch," he said.

On the credentials of White, he added: "Jake is certainly a winner and is a highly-respected South African coach. He's certainly one of the people you'd want to interview and it needs somebody of that kind of stature to come in and do this job. The job needs someone with a very proven track record and with the ability to cope with the expectation level that accompanies any England position."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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