Baxter and Hepher ‘prime contenders’

EXETER coaching duo Rob Baxter and Ali Hepher must be viewed as prime contenders to succeed Eddie Jones as England boss, according to Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson.

Whilst the prospect of losing newly promoted director of rugby Baxter and head coach Hepher will fill Exeter fans with horror, their stock has rocketed in the light of May’s Premiership title win – a fact that will not have gone unnoticed by RFU bosses at Twickenham.

Jones has indicated he has no desire to continue in his role beyond the Rugby World Cup in 2019, which means the
RFU will already be looking at potential replacements.

Steenson, who has worked under Baxter since 2008, believes England should seek a home-grown option and reckons the RFU need look no further than Sandy Park.

Exeter’s legendary playmaker told The Indy: ‘Rob and Ali have done incredible things for Exeter and I’ve been fortunate to be with them throughout my time here.

‘They’ve developed as a coaching team, really adding to our game, and Rob got himself away with England in Argentina in 2013 while Ali headed up the Saxons last year, so getting that international recognition shows they and the club are heading the right way.

‘They’ve sorted themselves new three-year deals at Chiefs so I’m sure they have unfinished business here, but if you look at their track record over eight or nine years and how they’ve progressed themselves, it would be great for England to look at them.’

Steenson added: ‘I always think it’s nice when you look at teams across the world and their national coach is from that country, so while there are other good coaches in the Premiership who’d be in the reckoning, Rob and Ali would have no problems stepping up to that level.

‘They deserve that chance and I could think of no finer candidates.’

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.