Paul Gustard’s move to Harlequins may hurt England’s World Cup preparations

• Gustard to coach Harlequins after England’s South Africa tour
• Injury to Wasps’ Jack Willis adds to Jones’s back-row problems

England’s World Cup preparations have been thrown into turmoil with their defence coach, Paul Gustard, leaving Eddie Jones’s coaching staff to become Harlequins’ head of rugby. It is believed Gustard – the current England defence coach – will see out his duties on next month’s tour of South Africa before vacating his role as one of Jones’s key assistants only 15 months before the World Cup.

The appointment will be officially announced on Monday by Harlequins, who have reached an agreement with the Rugby Football Union for Gustard’s release. The 42-year-old was contracted with the RFU until after the 2019 World Cup, having been appointed by England in December 2015, and Jones publicly refused to entertain the idea that Gustard may be leaving as recently as last week. He dismissed the notion as “rumours” and claimed he had no contingency plan in place but Brad Davis, the Australian who has fulfilled the role at Wasps in the past and currently works at the Ospreys, has already been linked with the post.

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