Ranked: The current job security of every Six Nations head coach

Jared Wright
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, Ireland boss Andy Farrell and Wales' Warren Gatland during the 2024 Six Nations.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, Ireland boss Andy Farrell and Wales' Warren Gatland during the 2024 Six Nations.

As the Six Nations enters the final weekend of the Championship, Planet Rugby takes a look at the job security of each of the head coaches.

Four teams are mathematically in the running for the title, so there is still plenty to play for in the last round, but are any of the coaches in danger of facing the axe?

Because it is the first year of a Rugby World Cup cycle, the answer would usually be no. However, 2022 showed that there has been a shift in rugby and that coaches could face the sack at any time, with Wayne Pivac and Eddie Jones both leaving their roles with the World Cup less than 12 months away.

So, the same can be true for the year following the global event. Only Italy entered the Six Nations with a new head coach and a clean slate, with the others having some older baggage that could lead to their departure.

We rank the coaches with the best job security to the worst.

Andy Farrell – Ireland

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell watches over the warm-up before the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell watches over the warm-up before the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London.

Ireland heads into the final round of the Championship with one hand on the title, and while there will be those disappointed that they did not become the first side to complete back-to-back Grand Slams since Italy joined the tournament, Andy Farrell is assured of his position.

The Englishman simply has far too much credit in the bank with the IRFU and is set to take on the British and Irish Lions head coach gig next year.

The disappointment of another Rugby World Cup quarter-final exit certainly factors into the equation, but again, Ireland have been nigh on unbeatable for most of his tenure in charge. His 81% success rate still makes him Ireland’s most successful permanent head coach.

By all accounts, he is loved by the team and assistant coaches so his sacking would be a remarkable turn of events.

Gonzalo Quesada – Italy

Italy's Head coach Gonzalo Quesada watches players warm up before a Six Nations rugby union match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Italy’s head coach Gonzalo Quesada watches players warm up before a Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin

As mentioned above, Quesada was the only new coach among the six teams at the start of the Championship. Still, his side’s performances have only improved his job security.

Outside of the pasting that they got from Ireland, Italy have been in a position to win their other three fixtures, doing so on only one occasion while losing one and drawing another.

They gave England a scare in round one, lost to Ireland, came the width of the post of beating France for the first time in France in the Six Nations and claimed an epic win over Scotland – their first in Rome in over a decade.

Quesada’s charges head into the final round of the Six Nations with the opportunity of avoiding a ninth successive Wooden Spoon finish as they go toe-to-toe with Wales in a straight shootout to avoid finishing last.

Even if they lose on Saturday, the bigwigs will be impressed by Quesada’s maiden Six Nations not only because of the results but the improvement in the overall performances.

While Kieran Crowley deserves a lot of credit, too, for the current performances, one has to say that Italy certainly picked up a top coach when hiring Quesada, who impressed during his two stints in charge of Stade Francais and led the Jaguares to the 2019 Super Rugby final.

Chris Robshaw’s Six Nations Team of the Week: Ben Earl the standout but Italy’s super six dominate

Steve Borthwick – England

England head coach Steve Borthwick watches over the warm-up before the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London.

England head coach Steve Borthwick watches over the warm-up before the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London.

There were premature calls for Steve Borthwick’s head after the defeat to Scotland in the Calcutta Cup in a rather knee-jerk manner but fast forward to the last weekend of the Six Nations, and he looks rather safe in his position.

Those calls certainly wouldn’t have come from the RFU after Borthwick led the side to a third-place finish at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and had beaten Italy and Wales before the loss to Scotland. The win over Ireland will certainly boost his job security, but frankly, only the frantic thought that he could get sacked at this stage.

This was effectively the first Six Nations he could plan long in advance for and probably test his squad, and against Ireland, the players and coaches really showed what they are capable of, not only fronting up physically and mentally but with a tactical and technical nous.

Win or lose to France on Saturday, and things won’t change too much in Borthwick’s job security, but a hammering in New Zealand after that might just.

Warren Gatland – Wales

Warren Gatland during Wales' Six Nations clash with France in 2024.

Warren Gatland during Wales’ Six Nations clash with France in 2024.

Warren Gatland provides a unique midway point in that Wales could well finish the Six Nations propping up the table, their lowest position in 21 years. However, even if Wales fall to Italy, it would not come as a surprise to see Gatland remain at the helm.

He was brought back into the head coach role to right the ship after losses to Italy and Georgia in 2022 and helped the side reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, where Argentina narrowly beat them.

Before and after the World Cup, Wales have also lost a host of players to retirement, including the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar and several others who have also moved abroad. There is a lot counting against Gatland, who is also pushing through the next generation, perhaps some of which are getting opportunities too soon, but it is the mess that the Welsh Rugby Union has created.

Surely, the WRU isn’t expecting miracles from Gatland and his team, and they will back him to build the team going forward. There is a risk that they could go rogue and sack the experienced head coach, but it is unlikely, and he has built up a tonne of credit with his past successes.

Loose Pass: Six Nations ‘madness’ and Warren Gatland’s firefighting job

Gregor Townsend – Scotland

Gregor Townsend Scotland coach v England SN 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend celebrates the Calcutta Cup win with some of his players at Murrayfield.

Gregor Townsend is perhaps lower than many expected him to be, but pressure must be mounting on the ex-fly-half’s shoulders.

While he has been at the forefront of so much success with Scotland, they have become the serial almost men. Dealt a harsh hand at the 2023 World Cup, Scotland still hardly fired a shot at South Africa and Ireland in a challenging pool stage.

They have threatened to get their hands on the Six Nations on multiple occasions too, even this season, and while fingers will point to the TMO decision in defeat to France, they had more than enough opportunities to win that game. One has to wonder if Townsend has taken the Scotland team as far as he can, and if so, is now the time for change?

He also has built up a lot of credit with the Scottish Rugby Union but at the same time, has he lost a lot of that in the past few months? His contract was set to expire at the end of the 2023 World Cup before he extended it until April 2026, a rather particular date for a potential replacement, then getting Two Test windows and one Six Nations before the 2027 World Cup. Will they pull the trigger early or extend?

Fabien Galthie – France

France's head coach Fabien Galthie, left, stands on the pitch before the Six Nations rugby union match between France and Ireland in Marseille.

France’s head coach Fabien Galthie before the Six Nations match between France and Ireland in Marseille.

Finally, the coach with the least job security has to be France boss Fabien Galthie as the pressure continues to mount.

He failed to deliver a World Cup title last year on home soil and endured an underwhelming start to the Six Nations as they were hammered 38-17 by Ireland in their backyard. They limped to a win over Scotland and were lucky to come away with a draw to Italy, also at home.

The French Rugby Federation have defended Galthie position, but with all due respect to France, you never really know. There have been reports of player unrest in the squad and a fallout with defence coach Shaun Edwards. A convincing final quarter against Wales saw them rack up a respectable 45-24 victory, which will have eased the pressure somewhat but not entirely.

Much like Eddie Jones, Galthie is known for being very demanding of his players and assistant coaches. If he’s not the one who heads out the door, expect change in some way or another.

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