World Cup 2023: The top six coaches in the hot seat
OPINION: Aside from having quality players, a team also needs the right man in charge if they want to be crowned the 2023 World Cup champions.
Eddie Jones’ appointment as Australia’s head coach means three of rugby’s major nations have new men in charge going into this year’s World Cup.
Steve Borthwick was last month unveiled as Jones’ successor with England, while Warren Gatland returned for a second stint with Wales.
Since the last World Cup event in 2019, the reigning champs Springboks will also be led by a new man in the shape of Jacques Nienaber.
All Blacks and Ireland are in the same boat, with Ian Foster taking over from Steve Hansen and Andy Farrell having replaced Joe Schmidt after the showpiece four years ago.
So while the players have been tasked to perform on the field there are six coaches who will be desperate to claim the biggest gong in World Cup.
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Eddie Jones (Australia)
No other man will be as eager as Eddie Jones to secure the World Cup. He coached Australia and England to the World Cup finals, respectively but the title has always alluded him. Jones was dismissed by England in December following a dismal 2022.
However, he has swiftly returned to the game for a second spell in charge of his native country, replacing the sacked Dave Rennie on a contract until 2027. The well-travelled 62-year-old led the Wallabies to the 2003 World Cup final and finished runner-up for a second time with England in 2019. He also guided Japan to a shock success over South Africa at the 2015 tournament.
Jacques Nienaber (South Africa)
Nienaber was the assistant coach when the Springboks were crowned world champions in 2019 before stepping up after the tournament to allow Rassie Erasmus to fully focus on the director of rugby role.
At the time, Nienaber had no experience as a head coach. The 50-year-old has won 16 of his 26 Tests in charge, including a 2-1 series success over the British and Irish Lions in 2021. This tournament could finally be the opportunity for Niemaner to step out of the shadows of Erasmus and make a name for himself in World Rugby history.
Steve Borthwick (England)
Former England forwards coach and captain Borthwick arrived at Twickenham with an impressive CV. Tasked with replacing Eddie Jones, nothing but a World Cup final will feel like a defeat to the England fans. He joined Leicester as head coach in 2020 and guided the Tigers to the Premiership title in his second season. During his playing career as an outstanding second-row forward, he featured in 57 Tests and clocked up close to 400 appearances for Bath and Saracens. His stint starts against Scotland on February 4.
Fabien Galthie (France)
Although Ireland are currently the world’s No.1 team, France go into their home tournament as favourites. Les Bleus clinched a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2022 and possess enviable strength in depth. Former scrumhalf Galthie succeeded Jacques Brunel following the last World Cup and swiftly set about bringing through an exciting array of talent. He has overseen 13 successive wins, including defeating the All Blacks.
Andy Farrell (Ireland)
Former Rugby League star Farrell has made a huge impression since succeeding Joe Schmidt. Ireland top the world rankings on the back of a stellar year in which they claimed a historic Test series triumph in New Zealand, toppled South Africa and Australia and claimed a Six Nations Triple Crown. The Irish have never progressed beyond the quarterfinal stage – a record Farrell will be desperate to change.
Ian Foster (New Zealand)
The New Zealand coach heads into the tournament under extreme pressure. New Zealand suffered only 10 defeats in 108 Tests during Foster’s time as assistant to Steve Hansen. The 57-year-old has failed to fully convince since promotion to the top job in 2019 and already lost nine of 34 fixtures, including the All Blacks’ first defeats to Argentina. A seven-match unbeaten run has alleviated some of the pressure. Yet Foster, whose contract expires after the tournament, has plenty to do to get the three-time champions firing.
*Additional Source: @PASports