White rules out England job ... for now

Jake White, South Africa’s World Cup-winning coach, on Monday played down suggestions he would be replacing Brian Ashton next month as the man in charge of England, although he didn’t rule himself out of the job at some point in the future.

The Rugby Football Union, England’s national governing body, is expected to announce in December, at the earliest, whether it wants Ashton to continue in his post.

England, the 2003 champions, eventually reached October’s World Cup final in Paris, where they lost 15-6 to South Africa just weeks after being thrashed 36-0 by the Springboks—their record World Cup defeat.

But senior players Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Catt both said in their recently published autobiographies that England’s revival came about primarily in spite of Ashton rather than because of anything the former Bath and Ireland coach had done.

White, who is stepping down when his contract runs out in December, following the decision of South African officials to advertise his job while the World Cup was in progress, has been linked repeatedly with a move to the England set-up.

He is now set to take charge of South Africa for the final time in a Test match when the Springboks face Wales at the Millennium Stadium, and said the widespread speculation regarding his future had been overwhelming.

“I’ve been quite amazed by how many jobs I’ve been offered in the newspapers that I haven’t really got to know about,” White told reporters on Monday. “But as I’ve always said, it’s unbelievable to think there have been six World Cups and England have been to three finals.

“In some ways England probably play a similar style to South Africa and I’ve had links with England before when the Rob Andrew job [elite performance director] was available, and that’s why people have asked would I consider it.

“When you’re involved in rugby you always want to make sure you can add value to teams that you think are going to suit the way you coach. That’s why I’ve said England—with whatever jobs—would always be a country I’d be interested in.

“But at this point I think there’s nothing worse than being an incumbent coach in the country and listening all the time about some other guy trying to your vie for your job.
I think it’s a little unfair on a guy like Brian Ashton, who’s taken the team to the World Cup final.”

He said: “At this point, straight from the horse’s mouth, I’d like some time off and my first priority is to finish off my tenure as national South Africa coach and then from next year see what opportunities come.

White, who last month turned down the chance to become the new Wales coach, added: “I don’t want to take the first coaching job that comes about.”

That position was filled by Kiwi former Ireland coach Warren Gatland, although caretaker boss Nigel Davies will be in charge this weekend.

Fourie du Preez, the Springboks’ World Cup-winning scrumhalf, on Monday became the latest of several first-choice South Africa players to pull out of this weekend’s match, with a shoulder injury.

But White said the fact this was his last Test as the team’s coach would help motivate both him and the team he picked to play Wales.

“It will probably be quite emotional, and as I’ve always said to the players, a lot of new guys will get an opportunity this weekend. In some ways it’s a bit of a blessing that it is my last Test match. I can use that as a bit of an emotional build-up.”—Sapa-AFP

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