Richard Cockerill guided Leicester to three Premiership titles as director of rugby

Credit: PA

Eddie Jones has held a face-to-face meeting with the former Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill as the make-up of England’s backroom staff was thrown into fresh turmoil. 

Telegraph Sport understands that Joe Lewis, the head analyst under Jones, has resigned for “personal reasons” just days after it was revealed that England defence coach John Mitchell is leaving to join Wasps. 

Mitchell’s departure leaves England’s coaching staff looking threadbare two years out from the 2023 World Cup with forwards coach Matt Proudfoot the only assistant coach remaining in full-time employment. 

However, Telegraph Sport has learnt that England head coach Jones met Cockerill, who left his role as head coach of Edinburgh by mutual consent last week, at a café in Leicestershire on Tuesday morning. 

A close source said that Cockerill is “definitely in the frame” for an unspecified role with England, although the former England hooker is understood to be considering all his options with interest from Top 14 clubs. 

Cockerill would inject a dose of English bulldog spirit into what was previously a largely foreign coaching group. As a combative hooker who stood face to face with Norm Hewitt in the 1997 during the All Blacks’ haka, Cockerill is the epitome of English belligerence. 

As a coach, Cockerill guided Leicester to three Premiership titles as director of rugby before reviving Edinburgh’s fortunes, leading them to a first home semi-final in the Pro14 as well as the quarter-finals of the 2019 Champions Cup. 

In addition to Mitchell, Simon Amor departed as England attack coach after a disappointing Six Nations campaign, while skills coach Jason Ryles pulled out of joining Jones’ team due to Covid concerns. 

Jones has already lined up Wasps’ Martin Gleeson to be his new attack coach, although that appointment is likely to be linked to when Wasps can bring Mitchell into their set-up. 

Worcester’s Mark Jones is also the prime contender to replace Mitchell as defence coach, however Jones’ talks with Cockerill adds an unexpected wrinkle as his specialism in front-row play would appear to overlap with Proudfoot’s. 

In his the World Cup cycle, Jones deployed Steve Borthwick to run the lineout and Neal Hatley to take charge of scrum. A similar division of responsibilities could be possible, although the RFU insisted that Jones is speaking to several candidates, including Cockerill. 

The question is whether Jones can attract a high enough quality of candidate considering the high turnover rate under his reign.