Michael Cheika has emerged as the latest name to be linked with the job as head coach of England. Reports from his homeland suggest the popular Australia chief has been sounded out by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) about potentially succeeding Stuart Lancaster following a disastrous 2015 World Cup that saw the host nation exit the tournament before the quarter-final stage for the very first time.
Although a final decision on the current incumbent's future is yet to be taken, a five-man panel featuring 2003 champion lock Ben Kay and Ians Ritchie, Watmore, McGeechan and Metcalfe have been tasked with conducting a review into such a comprehensive failure that featured consecutive Pool A defeats against old rivals Wales and Australia and has been made all the more embarrassing by Sam Burgess's subsequent decision to leave Bath and return to rugby league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs just a year after leaving the NRL and switching codes.
With many expecting Lancaster's four-year reign to be brought to an end over the coming weeks despite the 46-year-old and his coaching staff being contracted until 2020, The Australian suggest that RFU president Jason Leonard has reached out to losing finalist Cheika to determine whether or not he would be interested in taking over proceedings as England begin another four-year cycle leading up to Japan 2019.
Such a move could rightly be deemed ambitious given the widespread plaudits the former Leinster coach has received since succeeding Ewen McKenzie in October 2014. As well as confidently guiding his country to the World Cup final where they fell 34-17 to rivals New Zealand at Twickenham, he also helped the Wallabies win their first Rugby Championship in four years in August by beating the All Blacks in Sydney. Cheika, whose current deal runs until late 2017, was named World Rugby coach of the year for his efforts in leading Australia to second in the global rankings.
While the seriousness of England's interest and Cheika's own thoughts on the job are unclear, there is no doubt his arrival would be a huge coup for the RFU in the event that it does choose to relieve Lancaster of his duties or else offer him a different role. Other names to be linked with the position so far include Wales' Warren Gatland and former South Africa coach Jake White.
Eddie Jones, who led Japan to their famous victory over the Springboks in September before ending his three-year reign with the Brave Blossoms to take over at the Stormers, has also been floated as a potential candidate, while Nick Mallett recently claimed to have rebuffed an advance from the RFU.