Rugby chief Ian Ritchie has insisted that he is prepared to break the bank in order to secure a candidate with proven international experience to replace Stuart Lancaster, whose departure as England head coach was confirmed on Wednesday.
Lancaster left his post by mutual consent following a review into England’s dismal World Cup showing, a tournament at which they became the first host nation in history to suffer a group-stage exit.
Rugby Football Union chief executive Ritchie has been given full support by the governing body’s board, chaired by former captain Bill Beaumont, to identify Lancaster’s successor despite accepting accountability for England’s failure.
Ritchie, who has confirmed that Lancaster will be leaving the RFU altogether despite signing a bumper six-year deal in October 2014, also denied reports that Australia coach Michael Cheika had been approached.
“We need to get the best possible coach. This is not a matter of financial considerations, it is a matter of making sure that we get the best possible coach for English rugby going forward and we will do that without any inhibition,” said Ritchie.
“It is very important we get a head coach of proven international experience. Speed is important but the right person is even more important.
“It doesn’t rule out a foreign coach, it doesn’t rule out an English coach. The nationality is not important, getting the right coach is important. We are looking for a coach without inhibition.”
Ritchie also affirmed that the next head coach would be expected to abide by the existing stipulation that players based abroad will not be considered for England selection, except in undefined “exceptional circumstances”.
“That is something that is the current arrangement and I think it is right and I agree with that policy,” added Ritchie. “I do not think it was an impediment to the end result of the World Cup. It will remain in place.”
Despite expressing regret that code-switcher Sam Burgess’ stay in rugby union failed to last longer than 12 months, Ritchie was adamant that the 26-year-old’s return to South Sydney Rabbitohs should not embarrass the RFU.
“I don’t find the Sam Burgess situation in any way embarrassing. Let’s be clear, what we had was one of the leading rugby league players in the world wanting to come and play rugby union. I think that was a positive and we were delighted he came,” said Ritchie.
“We did not pay a sum of money for Sam Burgess to come and there was no insistence on anybody’s part at the RFU or with Stuart [Lancaster] that he had to be picked. I do not see how the RFU could have done anything different than we did.”