After Jim Mallinder’s 10-year reign as director of rugby at Northampton Saints came to an end Tuesday, the job now for chief executive Mark Darbon is to find a successor. Mike Ford is reportedly in the driving seat but he is not alone in throwing his hat into the ring.
Darbon stated that interest in the Saints job had come from far and wide as he assured fans that Dan Biggar’s switch to Franklin’s Gardens is still on track. But who will be the fly-half’s boss next season?
Despite a failed stint as head coach at European kingpins Toulon, Ford appears to be favourite to land the role, which could be on an interim basis until the end of the season. His exit from France came less than a year after he was sacked by Bath when the Aviva Premiership club finished ninth in the table. A stumbling block could be a reported long-term deal signed with Major League Rugby side Dallas Griffins. His successes include guiding Bath to the Premiership final in 2015 and a great escape — he helped Newcastle avoid relegation, which could work in his favour.
Lancaster has had a rebirth of sorts since his departure as England coach in the wake of the 2015 Rugby World Cup after taking up a role in Leo Cullen’s backroom team at Leinster last year. The move would interest him as he has reportedly struggled with being away from his family while in Ireland. While working alongside Girvan Dempsey in attack, he has also played a key role in the defence. The year before his arrival, Leinster scored 51 tries and conceded 27, in comparison to last season where an emphatic attack also allowed room for more tries being scored against them, scoring 91 tries and conceding 51 in the PRO14.
Former Springboks boss Meyer was assistant coach when South Africa claimed third place in the 1999 World Cup before leading them to the same result as head coach in 2015. Meyer also has Aviva Premiership experience, following a short spell with Saints’ Midlands rivals, Leicester. He stood down after four years in charge of the Springboks in the aftermath of their World Cup semifinal defeat two years ago, and has been spending his time overseeing the World 10s tournament, a 10-a-side club competition which will be played for the fourth time next June in Mauritius. It would take a big offer to tempt him back into the coaching fold. His best days might be behind him.
Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards is another name that has been linked to the job. The former Leicester and Harlequins boss has spent five years in charge up north, and although he has managed a best finish of eighth in the Premiership, he has managed to keep the Falcons competitive in the league with limited funds. He knows what it takes to win and with the Saints sitting in 10th, he could bring in a much-needed battle-hardened mentality.