- 21 Oct 07, 07:06 PM
Paris – I doubt whether planning for the future of the England team was foremost in the minds of the bleary-eyed fans I saw wandering around the streets of Paris this morning.
After all the partying and heartbreak that accompanied Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa, simply getting home was as far ahead as these weary souls were prepared to look.
But as journalists gathered for player interviews in the bowels of the Stade de France late on Saturday night, some were already looking to next year’s Six Nations.
Would Brian Ashton, presuming he has his contract extended (more on that later), start with a blank sheet of paper when he starts to think about the clash with Wales on 2 February?
Would the older members of the squad be jettisoned so that youngsters could be blooded ahead of the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand?
Ashton decided to stick with his more experienced players as he attempted to create a World Cup-winning squad in just a matter of months but with time on his side, he may now feel that he has breathing space to change his mind.
At England’s final press conference on Sunday, Ashton was keeping his cards close to his chest and would only go as far as stressing the importance of having both young and old heads in his World Cup squad.
"The mental strength of the experienced characters and the exuberance of the younger players tends to make a good mix on the field," he said.
But the emergence of the younger players during this World Cup has been a real positive for England fans.
When the final whistle blew at the Stade de France, the likes of Mathew Tait, Dan Hipkiss and Toby Flood were on the field – players that hold the key to England’s future.
And when you add to the mix talents like Tom Rees, Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Jordan Crane, Shane Geraghty, Ryan Lamb, David Strettle and Anthony Allen, you can see why Ashton is confident about what lies ahead.
But what of Ashton's own future?
That was all but assured earlier in the week when Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron said Ashton, whose current contract runs out on 31 December, is set to be offered a new deal when the squad returns home.
There is nothing to suggest that Ashton will not be offered a new contract but the press conference did turn a little strange when RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew was asked about Ashton’s future.
He looked quite uncomfortable as journalists pushed him on the issue and refused to give a definite answer.
"Now is not the time to go into any great detail about where we go next," he said. "Brian and I have been talking all though the tournament and we’ve got a lot of discussions going on that are private. It has never been appropriate to discuss those things during the course of a tournament."
Ashton seemed unflustered by the attention the subject was getting and insisted that things like contracts should be sorted out when tournaments are over.
"If you were sat doing this job you would know it's hard enough to move from one day to the next never mind jump ahead three or four weeks," he said. "It's a 24 hour job, especially in a World Cup."
Ashton has been fine form in front of the press over the last few weeks and that continued on Sunday despite the massive disappointment of losing to the Springboks.
And it would not be an English press briefing if there was not another mention of Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
After messages of support from Number 10 last week, Ashton and Brown finally met when England received their silver medals after the final.
"He said to me how very proud the nation was of what the players had achieved," said Ashton. "And then I asked for a tax rebate…I forgot that he had changed his job."
And that was that. A smiling Ashton disappeared into the team hotel preparing for his journey home and I would guess with an inkling of how he wants to shape this England squad ahead of that Wales game.
We will not have to wait long, there are only 104 days to go.
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.