London - John Kirwan was told by headhunters for the England coaching job that he was out of contention because the Italy and Japan sides he led were not major rugby teams.
Kirwan understood he would be a risky choice because he hadn't coached one of the world's top eight teams, but he hoped his experience of coaching at three World Cups and winning the inaugural one as an All Black might count.
However, he told the British Press Association on Friday that headhunters Odgers Berndtson informed him he would not be going to the England interview stage, but two others would be along with interim coach Stuart Lancaster.
The other two are tipped as former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett and former Ireland and US coach Eddie O'Sullivan. Kirwan backed Mallett to be appointed this month.
"They (Odgers) were looking for someone with a higher international profile. I understand that," Kirwan said. "They started out with something in mind and they are heading down that track.
"I think Nick Mallett would be perfect for it. Nick is the ideal mix. He is highly intelligent, he understands what a team needs to win and he gets the best out of players.
"It will be a high-pressure situation (coaching England) into a home World Cup (in 2015). I think Nick would be a great candidate for the job."
The English Rugby Football Union's desire for topflight experience would seem to count against Lancaster, who has been in charge for the first three games of the Six Nations, and credited with leading England back to respectability after an embarrassing World Cup campaign in New Zealand last year.
Kirwan regarded Lancaster as Mallett's biggest challenger.
"Stuart so far has been saying and doing all the right things. I think it is between those two," Kirwan said.
"The RFU will need to be cold about it and assess who will be the right guy to lead the side through to your own World Cup and not make the mistakes of a debutant. How many times did it take Clive Woodward and Graham Henry to win the World Cup? Two each."
Kirwan, still waiting for another high-profile opportunity, said Mallett's time in charge of Italy shouldn't be discounted. Mallett led Italy to their first Six Nations win over France last year before stepping down at the World Cup, as Kirwan did with Japan.
"It can be harder coaching a team like Italy or Japan," Kirwan said.