Ali Hepher: Exeter Chiefs head coach predicts bright future for English coaches

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
Exeter Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher
Ali Hepher believes young English coaches have "exceptional" support from clubs and the Rugby Football Union

English coaches are good enough to thrive in top Premiership and international jobs, says Exeter Chiefs head coach Ali Hepher.

John Kingston's sacking as Harlequins boss means only three English directors of rugby remain in the Premiership.

"There is a new crop of young coaches - and that crop may take a bit of time to come through into those top jobs," 43-year-old Hepher told BBC Radio 5 live.

"There are definitely pathways and it's proven to be pretty successful."

English coaches Jim Mallinder and Nick Kennedy have also left their posts with Northampton, and London Irish respectively this season.

New Zealander Chris Boyd is set to replace Mallinder at Northampton, while Irishman Declan Kidney and Australian Les Kiss were installed at London Irish in place of Kennedy.

John Kingston
John Kingston will leave Harlequins at the end of a disappointing 2017-18 season for the club

Sale's Steve Diamond, Dean Richards of Newcastle and Exeter's Rob Baxter are the only Englishmen who remain in director of rugby positions.

But Hepher, whose side are eight points clear at the top of the table, said: "You look at the successes in the Premiership, and there have been a lot of home-grown coaches heading up those sides.

"Rob [Baxter], Richard Cockerill, Jim Mallinder - they are often through the system. Conor O'Shea spent a lot of time with the RFU as well.

"There is no reason why successful coaches in the Premiership can't go on to be international coaches and be successful. It hasn't really been tried."

'It's up to the individual to work hard'

Worcester Warriors backs coach Sam Vesty gets his point across
Sam Vesty is set to become attack coach at Northampton Saints

There are several younger coaches making an impact at Premiership clubs, such as Hepher at Exeter and Dave Walder at Newcastle, both of whom are working under English bosses in Baxter and Richards.

Sam Vesty, who worked with England in Argentina last summer, is set to join Boyd at Northampton, while Stuart Hooper is potentially being groomed to take over from Todd Blackadder at Bath.

"The RFU put a lot of money into our developments, right the way through to Level Four, which is a fantastic course," Hepher said.

"The pathway is fine. It's up to the individual to work hard and progress their careers with support from the RFU and the clubs themselves, who support us exceptionally well.

"There is no reason why someone can't drive towards being a head coach or an international coach."

Exeter won the Anglo-Welsh Cup this season and are chasing a second successive Premiership title.

"My real ambition when I started coaching was to win trophies," Hepher said.

"Whether that changes in a few years' time and you look for different things... but at the moment I am fully focused on winning trophies for this club."

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