England rugby chief Steve Brown has appeared to doubt Wales’ plans to replace Warren Gatland as coach.
The RFU chief executive has also claimed he believes England are not far behind in their own preparations to replace Eddie Jones after the 2019 World Cup.
The Welsh Rugby Union announced in October they had already drawn up a three-man shortlist to succeed Gatland and aimed to make an announcement in the summer of 2018 – over a year before the New Zealander is due to return home.
The list is understood to include Gatland’s fellow Kiwi Dave Rennie, currently in charge at Glasgow, Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac, and a third New Zealander in Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd. Wasps coach Dai Young, a former Wales captain, has also been touted as an outsider along with Exeter’s Englishman Rob Baxter.
But Brown has hinted he believes the shortlist is more of a wishlist – and that candidates may not even have been sounded out.
He said: “Is it three candidates that they’ve secured or is it who they might go after? There’s an element of circumstance and speculation.
“I’m not criticising their process, I’m just saying it could change quite quickly, couldn’t it, and certainly given the outcome of the tournament it could certainly change.”
Brown has also suggested both England and Wales could be targeting the same people.
“I guess that’s inevitable isn’t it (that other unions will be chasing similar candidates), but it depends on when they become available, that’s the other point.
“It can be a very busy post-World Cup period, as was after the last World Cup, so I think it’s probably inevitable when you have so much success that your coach becomes very popular.”
Jones intends to stand down after the 2019 global tournament, leaving the RFU already assessing their options for a replacement, although they are yet to compile any list of candidates.
But asked if Wales have already stolen a march on the race for a new coach post-2019, Brown replied: “No I think we may not be that far apart actually.
“We’re not public yet with our thinking but we’re probably not that far apart.”
Brown insisted the RFU would consider candidates based both in England and abroad as Jones’ eventual replacement.
The chief executive expects the RFU board to draw up a panel to make the appointment, but revealed that process has not yet started either.
“We’re not there yet, we don’t have the group convened,” said Brown, when asked who would be tasked with the recruitment process for Jones’ successor.
“But it’s a board decision so the board have got to agree the process first before we go through any of that.”
Confirming the RFU would consider candidates from both at home and abroad, Brown added: “We’re looking at both; we will look at both and consider both.
“It may be that we end up focusing on one or the other because that becomes the primary element of it, but we will definitely consider both.
“The situation with Eddie remains the same, his contract ends in 2019 after the World Cup but, as I’ve said previously, we continue to work on our succession plan: what are we going to do about our head coach at that point, what are we going to do in the interim?
“Our plan is certainly before we get started on the 2019 campaign and into that year to have worked it out and be clear publicly about what our plans are.”