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England can delay for the right man: chief's comment opens door to Smith

ENGLAND rugby is not giving up on Wayne Smith and may rejig the timing of its appointment of a head coach to clear the way for the former All Blacks coach to take up the prized role.

The Times revealed during the week former Springboks coach Nick Mallett flew in to meet the Rugby Football Union's new chief executive, Ian Ritchie, and other Twickenham powerbrokers.

But Ritchie did not rule out a caretaker head coach leading England's tour to South Africa in June, with an appointment being delayed until September if it meant waiting for the ''best person'' to become available.

The Times noted ''conspiracy theorists'' might see this as giving Smith time to reconsider his decision not to apply. Smith had said his commitment to the Chiefs in Super Rugby would rule him out of taking the England job in June.

''If the best candidate can't start until September or October, would I wait? Yes, I would,'' Ritchie said.

Incumbent Stuart Lancaster, Smith and Mallett are seen as the key contenders. Lancaster's relative lack of coaching experience at the highest level will disadvantage him, even though he is driving England's Six Nations campaign.


''I would expect to be the person who is in the lead in suggesting and recommending this appointment,'' Ritchie said. ''Certainly, from my point of view, it's a hugely important personal relationship. It's not a vote round the table [on] who is going to get it.''

Meanwhile, England's headhunters told John Kirwan he was out of contention because the Italy and Japan sides he led were not major teams. Kirwan understood he would be a risky choice, because he hadn't coached one of the world's top eight, but he hoped his experience of coaching at three World Cups and winning the first one as an All Black might count.

However, he told British press last week headhunters Odgers Berndtson informed him he would not be interviewed.

''They [Odgers] were looking for someone with a higher international profile. I understand that,'' Kirwan said. ''They started out with something in mind and they are heading down that track.''

Kirwan said he considered Mallett the best appointment.

''I think Nick Mallett would be perfect for it. Nick is the ideal mix. He is highly intelligent, he understands what a team needs to win and he gets the best out of players.

''It will be a high-pressure situation [coaching England] into a home World Cup [in 2015].''