Warren Gatland will have his game face on this weekend, wholly intent on crafting victory over England in a seminal Six Nations match.

The gaze of the former Waikato hooker will be focused entirely on events that take his team into the hot-house atmosphere of the stadium as evening draws in and the decibel level rises. It will be a theatrical backdrop, suitably so on many levels, one of which is that the sporting drama could yet prove to be instructive as England ponder their own future post-Eddie Jones.

Could Gatland be coaching England in next year's Six Nations championship?

It's a moot question. Gatland's 11-year association with Wales is coming to an end after the World Cup in Japan. That much is clear. Jones' precise future is more open-ended. The Australian is contracted through to 2021, with his prime responsibility after events in Japan to help with the succession planning and nurturing of a new head coach.


It is only right that Gatland should be under consideration at some juncture. Sunday's match has enough spice and intrigue in its own right as the two sets of players give it the full metal jacket, fury with finesse.

Jones has already set the tone. The final whistle had barely blown on a thumping England victory over France when Jones was pointedly referencing the next fixture, that against "the greatest ever Wales team".

That the statistics indicate such an elevated state of affairs — a record-equalling 11 victories in a row already notched — is one thing but the most rudimentary awareness of history, allied to the necessary grey matter to apply some worthwhile judgment, would tell you it is nonsense.

Gatland's record with Wales is highly commendable, with two Grand Slams to his name during his tenure at a time when the regions have been spectacularly unproductive in Europe. His forte, as he has shown twice with the Lions, is to get players together in a short space of time to deliver a performance.

If there is one key aspect of the respective coaches' input to Sunday's outcome, it is this ability of Gatland to get teams to hit the high notes on the big occasions.

The Lions did it in the third test in Sydney in 2013 when the series was on the line and the chorus of critical disapproval was at its shrillest following the decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll. There was even more acute pressure in New Zealand two years ago when the New Zealand Herald depicted Gatland as a clown on its front page.

There is no doubt Gatland should be on the RFU's radar, as acting chief executive Nigel Melville acknowledged in December.

Jones himself has proven the value of having a tried-and-trusted practitioner in the role.


International rugby is an unforgiving arena. It is not a rehearsal. There is little or no scope for development.

Gatland's record is its own testimony. Any future employer would, however, need to gauge his energy and enthusiasm levels for another (minimum) four-year project. There would be legitimate questions to raise, too, as to whether he is too closely associated too recently with Welsh rugby for there to be a sense of a new start in England.

What is to relish is that two top-end coaches will be using every last morsel of their know-how this week to ensure Sunday's showdown showtime lives up to its billing.