Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland in the frame to replace Eddie Jones as England head coach

Ireland coach and Welsh coach Warren Gatland have been identified by England as possible replacements for Eddie Jones if the country‘s fortunes don‘t improve.

The English Rugby Football Union has confirmed that it has already begun a recruitment process to identify potential candidates to ensure there is a proper succession plan in place for whenever the vacancy arises.

The RFU‘s chief executive Steve Brown said there is no gentleman‘s agreement between the ‘home‘ unions to not go after their coach.

“No, that doesn‘t exist,” he said. “Half of the Tier One coaches changed at the last World Cup and most of them were northern hemisphere, so they are going to go in different directions.

“To be honest, it‘s pretty competitive, so no-one‘s off limits. It‘s all to do with whether they fit the profile and the criteria that we‘re looking for. The list is long at the moment and we are looking at everybody.”

Jones signed a two-year extension in January to stay in the role until 2021 but his contract will be terminated if England do not meet the RFU‘s performance target at next year‘s World Cup in Japan. England are determined to have a plan in place for either scenario.

Top of the RFU‘s criteria are head coaches with proven success on the international stage, and Gatland and Schmidt, whose contracts expire after the World Cup in Japan, would both be considered strong contenders for the position.

Schmidt coached Ireland to the Grand Slam this season while Gatland masterminded the Lions‘ drawn series against the All Blacks last year and has coached Wales to three Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams.

“Something we are looking at is that key international experience and success is going to be pretty critical in this,” said Brown. “Whilst we would love to have an English head coach, eventually our priority is still to get the best coach for England whether they are English or not.”

When asked if someone like Gatland, who also guided the Lions to a Test series victory over Australia in 2013, would come under consideration, Brown said: “We‘re not precluding anyone from the list, and we don‘t have any agreements to do that.

“But what we‘re not going to do is to upset another union. We are going to be respectful of those arrangements, as we would expect others to do with us.”

Brown said the RFU are also considering an English coach who is in an international set-up, but not a head coach.

He added that if Jones, who is heavily involved in the succession plan, remains in place for two years after the World Cup, his successor could be sent on a sabbatical for two years with a Tier Two country like Georgia to gain international head coach experience.

This could bring Ireland‘s defence coach Andy Farrell into strong consideration. Farrell joined Schmidt‘s backroom team within three weeks of losing his job with England in December 2015. He has played a key role in Ireland‘s rise to second in the World Rugby rankings.

Sunday Indo Sport