Martin Johnson hasn't official stepped down, or been axed, but already 'replacements' are lining up for the most prized job in England.
Northampton Saints coach Jim Mallinder this week put his hand up to replace Johnson, following England's disastrous World Cup quarterfinal exit.
Mallinder, 45, who guided the Saints to the European Cup Final last season, alerted the RFU to his availability by saying he would be interested if approached.
Speaking at the Twickenham launch of the European Cup, Mallinder said that it was an understandable ambition to want to coach at the very top level.
"Every player should want to aspire to play for his country and I think that's probably the same for coaches too," said Mallinder.
"You should always aspire to be the very best you can.
"If one day, I ever have that honour, it would be something that would be very difficult to turn down."
Mallinder has already coached at the level below full international level, taking charge of the England Saxons between 2006 and 2007.
In that role he achieved the impressive record of 15 wins in 16 matches, including a victory over the New Zealand Maori in the Final of the Churchill Cup.
He had previously coached Sale and had also worked in the RFU's National Academy.
Johnson's contract expires next month.
The RFU management, who board meet Wednesday to decide the way ahead, is expected to receive a definitive signal from Johnson as to whether he intends to stay as England manager.
But Mallinder's candidacy demonstrates there are attractive alternatives which offer no guarantees he will be kept on even if he wishes to do so.
Suddenly, playing reputations count for nothing. It may be that a maths teacher who appeared twice for his country during his Sale career is of more appeal to the RFU than a giant of the game who wore the England jersey 84 times and lifted the World Cup on his final appearance.
The silence from Johnson since his return from New Zealand has created a void into which others are increasingly willing to step.
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