Have you heard the one about the Irishman, the Welshman and the Scot? They’ll be picking England’s next rugby coach…
Conor O’Shea of Harlequins and Ian McGeehan of Bath are the two representatives from Premiership Rugby that will join RFU employees Kevin Bowring (former coach of Wales), Rob Andrew and new CEO Ian Ritchie in reviewing the appointment of the next England coach.
O’Shea works with quintessential metropolitans Harlequins and has steered them well since Bloodgate while McGeehan is in charge of project Bath and is a living legend in rugby. Irish fans may remember O’Shea as a clean cut full back, nicknamed “Caesar” by his colleagues, on a number of teams that got beaten regularly for Ireland. His last cap was the 18-50 hammering in Twickenham that led Warren Gatland to clean house. He was the players’ player of the year in the Premiership in 1999, when it was a stronger league than now. More than likely, most Irish fans will be familiar with O’Shea from RTE’s panel where he talks knowledgably and sensibly until interrupted by McGurk or Hook after a few sentences.
The Mole can’t tell exactly what it is that O’Shea does at Harlequins but it’s obvious that he does it well. This interview portrays him as knowledgeable, sensible and authoritative. O’Shea recently signed a two year extension of his Harlequins contract alongside John Kingston, who used coach Galwegians. The Mole is becoming convinced of the opinion that the national coach’s job is a misnomer in that it is more a management role, central to which is the ability to decide upon and implement a strategy by delegating to a team of coaches who take responsibility for technical implementation. In this light, O’Shea seems best positioned to take over from Declan Kidney, whenever that eventuality comes to pass. It is unknown if the IRFU have an envelope containing the name of the man who would take over if Kidney was run over by the team bus. O’Shea would be on most people’s shortlist for the role. Consequently, it looks quite possible that he could be responsible for the appointment of a man that he will be preparing to face in a number of years.
As Bowring is likely to support Lancaster, being cut from the same RFU staff cloth, McGeehan’s public support must come as a welcome boost to the current interim chief. The RFU have been very transparent and professional so far in this appointment. This stability will fortify England in the years to come. They will be strong in 2015.
Very interesting – the manager’s role in the Irish set up seems underpowered and vague at the moment. I look to the 1997 Lions as a template for the distinction between the roles of the manager and the coaches: Cotton was a big voice on that tour as manager, McGeechan an excellent, unifying head coach and Telfer a force of nature and motivator.
If Caesar does take over, I think it’d be interesting to see him assume the Cotton role and Foley taking the Telfer role … the key appointment would be the McGeechan role, of course. Joe Schmidt of Leinster would seem the obvious choice, but it could just as easily be Les Kiss, or maybe somebody entirely different; maybe it’s O’Shea’s choice?