2:03pm Friday 9th March 2012
By Stuart Amos
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea may be on the RFU panel hunting for a new England coach, but a Stoop tenant reckons he need look no further than Nick Mallett.
London Broncos star Craig Gower played, and won, under the former South Africa head coach when he was in charge of rugby minnows Italy – who Gower qualifies for through his grandfather.
Acting England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who takes his team to face France in the Six Nations on Sunday, is the current incumbent, but Mallett is hotly tipped to take charge of the national team at the conclusion of this year’s competition.
And dual-code international Gower – he also played for Australia in rugby league – has given the man who handed him his Italy debut a ringing endorsement.
“I’ve had some really good coaches in my career and he is right up there with the best,” he said.
“Coaching Italy is tough because there is not a lot of stock in terms of playing resources. He had to do what he could with the players he had.
“It shows the character of the man that as soon as he got the job he learned Italian and he can speak French too. He is very intelligent and his man management is outstanding.
“It was a fantastic honour to play for Italy and to play under Nick. Beating Scotland in Rome was one of many great memories.”
St Margarets-based Gower agreed a switch to the Broncos – after three years with French top 14 side Bayonne – which meant he forfeited a crack at last year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
The former Penrith Panthers star has recovered from a knee ligament injury suffered last year, but has seen the new Super League season start poorly at the Broncos, with the Londoners losing their opening five games.
Gower, an NRL Premiership winner in his native country, is in the capital on a two-year contract having made the move across the Channel and is out to make his mark in the UK in a sport he graced at the highest level on home turf having called time on his union career.
And he has no plans to return home anytime soon.
“The only regret I have at the moment is not having won a game yet this season,” he added.
“With the potential we have in our team it is disappointing not to have done that yet.
“I want to play in a successful side.
“It would be great to grow the game in London, but to do that we have to start winning to give the fans something to shout about.
“We love living in Europe and I can’t see us moving back to Australia for a while yet.
“It was a great experience to be in France and living in London is a great move for us.”
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