So in the week after the world cup was won, the RFU have said they didn’t actually put a deadline on Martin Johnson and Graham Henry has declared his interest in coming back to Britain. 

First things first – Johnson should go, and be joined in the dole que by Brian Smith, Dave Alred,  Jon Callard and Mike Ford. The kicking strategy has been poor (Alred & Callard), defence porous at times and certainly not solid (Ford) and how a backline containing such a talent was so uninventive (Smith) beggars belief. Johnson may only be the team manager, but he is inexperienced (albeit not his fault) and failed to change things as appropriate. The only survivor should be Graham Rowntree whose reputation has been on a stellar trajectory but faltered over the last few months – he deserves the benefit of the doubt for time served, and with a stronger group around him will resume his upwards march.

So who should join GR? As a leader, and for his experience alone, Graham Henry takes some beating. He was the Welsh saviour (as many have been) and lived with a poor Lions tour and Welsh dreams crumbling (as they do every 4 years) – add in the fact he failed to deliver against a poor French team in 2007 and here is a man who knows failure. But this is why his success is even more impressive. The RFU should be beating a path to his door and giving him everything he wants – he can develop the current crop of English coaches (of which there are many) and deliver a squad high on player power (which it already is) but also discipline and responsibility (which is clearly missing). 

Defensively there are four clear choices: Shaun Edwards, Dave Ellis, Neil Back and Paul Gustard. Gustard has implemented a concrete wall at Vicarage Road (and Wembley) but is a little raw and is used to having a large core of experienced players to take a lead. Back failed at Leeds due to recruitment being poor and he has an excellent record as a defensive coach from his time at Leicester – should such a talent be at Rugby Lions? Dave Ellis has international experience which is unprecedented among his countrymen, and took France to the World Cup Final. Shaun Edwards has more club trophies than most, the respect of anybody who’s ever played under him and that edge that marks him out as unique. Given I’d pay handsomely to get Henry, Edwards’ availability is attractive enough to swing the gig away from Ellis. 

Kicking coach? There aren’t many on the market – Mike Byrne is under contract (kind of) with NZ, but after his spell with Japan,  with the lure of more money  and a wider remit working on skills as well, he has the potential to be temped to stay in the northern hemisphere. His understanding of coaching and mechanics makes him a stand-out choice to move away from Alred who’s been involved for too long. 

And possibly onto the most important role – that of nurturing a backline which has the potential to out-Aussie the Aussies (and before anybody doubts this imagine a backline of Youngs, Ford, Sharples, Farrell, Manu , Ashton, Foden with Wade, Turner-Hall and Simpson hardly miles behind)? There is a strong argument for Brian Ashton who is one of the most inventive and inspirational coaches in the world (but is a poor head coach as he is a blue-sky thinker and believes in total  player power)… but his inclusion does not advance the national cause going forward and would limit the impact of Graham Henry. The Northampton coaches? Paul Grayson isn’t the most adventurous and Saints haven’t exactly fulfilled their potential…. Andy Farrell on the other hand has been at the heart of Saracen’s rapid elevation and has been involved with the Saxons. He’s young, willing to learn and through Saracen’s performances has shown a very mature understanding of how to play the rules and take players with him (twice they have massively altered their preferred style of play in mid-season – not an easy task).

And who should captain the side itself? Tom Wood is an outside chance but for me he is neither a 7 nor a 6 currently and if nothing else, the world cup showed the need for specialists at the former. Dan Cole seems to have cemented himself into the squad, but as a leader of me he is a doer rather than a talker (no bad thing as Johnson has based a career on it) but at this stage of the teams development, more traditional leadership is required. James Haskell offends a lot of people with his self-publicity and his globetrotting on the back of rugby. Who cares? I certainly don’t – his rugby has matured since his time in France, and the number of top class names (both in playing and importantly in coaching) plying their trade in Japan means it isn’t a waste of a season. He has been the best English forward for over a year now, is versatile enough to play 6-8 and has the potential to influence games in the same way as Samo does for the Kangaroos if he’s given the 8 shirt long term and Easter is put out to pasture. 

So Henry, Edwards, Rowntree, Byrne and Farrell are the future… will the RFU agree? No, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong...