CHRIS FOY: Is Gatland the man to make America's Eagles fly high?

CHRIS FOY: Is Warren Gatland the man to make America’s Eagles fly high? The revered coach will need all of his know-how to succeed with even fewer resources than he had with Wales

  • World Cup hosts the United States could make Warren Gatland coach in 2023
  • The position would be huge responsibility for former Wales supremo Gatland
  • Tadhg Furlong showed what a talent he is during Leinster’s game with Toulouse
  • The Premiership Cup Final will be more enticing if Ollie Lawrence plays a part

The United States have been chosen as World Cup hosts and now they need someone to turn their national team into a competitive force. It is arguably the next big job in rugby — and it may have Warren Gatlands’s name on it.

There are persistent rumours that the former Wales and Lions head coach is set to take charge of America’s Eagles at the end of next year. It is a monstrous mission, with profound implications for the country and for the game at large.

The USA are 18th in the World Rugby men’s rankings and are facing a two-leg play-off against Chile in July, as the next stage of their quest to qualify for the 2023 global showpiece in France.

Warren Gatland could take the next big job in rugby if he becomes coach of the United States

The US will host the World Cup in 2031 and there is a push for more engagement in the sport

Now they have been awarded hosting rights for 2031 — as well as for the women’s tournament two years later — the stakes are even higher.

If this is to become the catalyst for the sport to expand and develop in the States, USA need their public to become engaged. And the most likely way that will happen is if the Eagles soar.

Americans will get behind a cause, such as their team challenging the established elite in a different type of oval-ball game to the NFL.

What the US hope to emulate is the surge of interest in Japan during the last World Cup in 2019.

Gatland is being tipped to replace Gary Gold as the head coach of the team at the end of 2023

That was created by the stirring deeds of the hosts, who defeated Ireland and Scotland on the way to the quarter-finals, where they fought the good fight against eventual champions South Africa — in a fixture watched by a domestic TV audience of 60 million.

For a short while, rugby knocked sumo wrestling off the top of the sporting agenda.

There could be a similar impact across the Atlantic, with the right leadership — and investment.

If various sources are right and Gatland is primed to replace Gary Gold as head coach at the end of 2023, the Kiwi will need all of his know-how and an even greater knack for succeeding with limited resources than he demonstrated for so many years when he was in charge of Wales.

There are chronic limitations — in terms of budget, fixtures and access to players — but also a vast depth of raw materials for a canny operator to harness.

‘The potential is there because of the immense base of athletic talent,’ said Ross Young, chief executive of USA Rugby. ‘So why would the best coaches in the world not want to be part of driving this forward?’

He has a point. It is an enticing project, albeit fraught with complications. If Gatland is the chosen one, he will have an opportunity to unlock a new territory and transform the sport. What an assignment. What a responsibility.

Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong underlined his ability with a magnificent pass against Toulouse

Freakish Furlong is true prop star

Tadhg Furlong provided further proof on Saturday that he is a freakish talent, as Leinster’s playmaker prop delivered a sublime pass to release Hugo Keenan against Toulouse.

It was a right-to-left equivalent of Ellis Genge’s glorious assist for a try by Jamie George for England against Italy earlier this year.

Throw in the handling class of the likes of Cyril Baille and Kyle Sinckler and it is clear that front-row creativity has reached an all-time peak.

Leinster will hope Furlong recovers from injury to be fit for the Champions Cup final against La Rochelle on May 28, but they will be favourites to claim a fifth title regardless.

Their Test-standard displays have led mighty Racing 92 to consider trying to recruit Stuart Lancaster, whose redemption in Dublin has been spectacular.

Stage set for lawrence to be centre of attention again

Here’s hoping Ollie Lawrence is fit to play and prosper for Worcester in the Premiership Cup Final.

The centre was flying when he was given an England debut in October 2020, but then barely received a pass and was jettisoned again.

Since that episode, injuries have hampered Lawrence’s attempts to move on and revive. But the 22-year-old has the potential to show some of the brash confidence which characterised his rise to prominence.

Sergio Parisse is one of the veterans who is continuing to impress on the way to 40 years old

Evergreen stars continue to prosper

At a time of grave concerns about rugby’s punishing nature and the threat of abbreviated careers, it is heartening to see so many veterans thriving.

On Saturday night, Italy icon Sergio Parisse was at the heart of Toulon’s victory over Saracens, at the age of 38 — a little slower than before but still just as influential. 

Leicester have just confirmed the signing of Jimmy Gopperth — who will be 39 when he joins from Wasps.

Richard Wigglesworth is still holding his own for the East Midlands club at 38 and Chris Ashton’s try-scoring feats in recent months have earned the 35-year-old another deal at Welford Road.

Former All Black prop John Afoa is leaving Bristol at the end of the season, but rather than retiring at 38, he will play on for French second-tier side Vannes.

Finally, look at Johnny Sexton — almost 37 but as commanding as ever, to such an extent that Ireland have long since abandoned their short-term No 10 succession planning.

London Irish sensation Henry Arundell is one newcomer who is destined for the English set-up

The last word 

London Irish’s teenage sensation, Henry Arundell, is destined to be included in the England training squad named on Tuesday by Eddie Jones.

The versatile back has also been pursued by Scotland and Wales, as he qualifies for both rival home nations through grandparents, but he has played for England Under 20s and is set for an early Red Rose debut.

The selection of this X-factor rookie will generate considerable excitement, but England’s squad doesn’t actually need a root-and-branch overhaul, despite the poor Six Nations campaign.

There are plenty of shiny young stars already — they just need to be used more effectively.

Freddie Steward has settled well but England fans will want to see Marcus Smith kick on, Harry Randall play high-tempo rugby with quick ball, Max Malins in electric Saracens mode and Alex Dombrandt running amok in space.

Ollie Chessum and Bevan Rodd are others in the top-prospect category. There are more than enough English prodigies around capable of joining the established core to create a fine Test team.

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