RFU unveils its vision for the future
November 30, 2011
RFU acting chief executive Stephen Brown and PGB chairman and RFU board member Ian Metcalfe address the media at Twickenham © Getty Images
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced a series of measures resulting from an internal review into the shambles of England's World Cup campaign.
Ian Metcalfe, chairman of the Professional Game Board (PGB), told a packed press conference at Twickenham, that fans and players had been let down by the board but nonetheless sounded a positive note. "It's not all broken," he insisted. "There are lots of good things out there and working together we can improve on that."
Outlining how the RFU intended to restore its battered reputation, Metcalfe detailed those recommendations laid out in the recent PGB review that were approved by the RFU board earlier today. These include the appointment of a new head coach in time for next summer's tour of South Africa with an interim coach set to take charge for the forthcoming Six Nations.
"Our appetite is to get the best head coach possible and then working with him to get the best assistant coaches possible," said Metcalfe. "For the head coach, our principle is to get the best person possible. I'd love them to be English, but I'd rather have the best, whatever their nationality. We want to give ourselves the maximum amount of time we can to secure the best possible person to do this job. We will search the world for this person."
In a key ruling, the new head coach will report to the chief executive and board of directors and not the head of the elite rugby department that will also be the subject of a review. "The view of the head coaches we've had conversations with is that they want to report direct to the chief executive of the board," Metcalfe said. "[Wales coach] Warren Gatland reports directly to Roger Lewis in Wales. [New Zealand coach] Graham Henry reports directly to his board. That direct relationship is important. The expression buffer has been used and the head coaches I've spoken to don't want a buffer. They don't mind having accountability as long as they have responsibility."
Support structures around the senior England side, including the role of agents, are also to be reviewed while all players are to be reminded of the importance of adhering to sport's 'core values' when representing England. The appointment of a high-profile team manager to handle non-playing responsibilities has also been given the green light.
Metcalfe also confirmed that Rob Andrew would be formally made the board's professional rugby director with responsibility for all levels of the game with the exception of the senior team and insisted it was not a demotion. Andrew's position had been the subject of widespread speculation in the wake of the World Cup and he has repeatedly refused to follow manager Martin Johnson in resigning from his post. "I don't think it's a demotion at all," Metcalfe said. "One of the ways we failed Rob is not explaining the breadth of what he is trying to do. He has a significant contribution to continue to make."
However, Andrew will still retain a role in the selection of the interim and permanent head coaches as part of the 153 Group, who make recommendations on suitable candidates to the board.
"Rob has the experience to make a contribution to the process of choosing the interim and permanent head coach," Metcalfe added. "Rob retains the board's confidence to do the role we've asked him to and manage the process around the appointment of the interim coach.
"Rob is still in a job because he's done a lot of great things for the union over an extended period of time. But there's definitely a perception issue around Rob's involvement. I'm conscious of the views of the average rugby supporter, many of whom don't understand the role he plays or have confidence in what he does. We as union need to deal with that perception. It's a challenge."
Andrew's new position does seem to increase the chances of former South Africa and Italy head coach Nick Mallett becoming England boss. Approached by the RFU earlier this month to sound out his interest in the role should Johnson resign, Mallett turned down their advances insisting he wanted to take a break from the game whilst also expressing his concern about the current structure of the Union.
On Mallett's likely link-up, Metcalfe added: "We will take as much time as we need to make that appointment. I spoke to Nick Mallett after Martin resigned and he explained he was back in Cape Town - I've not spoken to him since he has arrived here.
"He's somebody you would expect to be on any wider list but we want to make it as open a process as possible. There are a number of high-quality coaches in the Premiership and we would be very interested in their interest in the job."
RFU acting chief executive Stephen Brown opened the press conference by apologising for England's performance at the World Cup. "Fundamentally we have let the sport of rugby down," he said. "We need to take action and fix things going forward. Standards were below what we expect, we had a number of off-pitch disciplinary matters and that attracted a lot of negative coverage which we regret. We need to fix this going forward and make sure we are in a better place going into 2015 and the report is aimed to do that."
Metcalfe endorsed those views but added: "We also apologise to the players themselves and coaches for the leaks that happened, they are inexcusable. But we must not get so wrapped up in finding the leaker to ignore the real issues we have in England rugby."
PGB review recommendations approved by the RFU management board:
+ England should appoint a Head Coach with the appropriate experience and track record in time for the tour of South Africa in June 2012
+ An interim Head Coach should be appointed to prepare England for the 2012 Six Nations
+ The interim and permanent England Head Coach will report to the Chief Executive and the Board of Directors
+ The support structures around the senior England team will be re-evaluated, including the appointment of a Senior England Team Manager to handle all non-playing responsibilities of the team
+ Additional support structures to be implemented will include:
+ An independent review of the RFU's Elite Rugby Department
+ Rob Andrew will formally be appointed to the role of RFU Professional Rugby Director with responsibilities for all Professional Rugby Department operations, including the relationship with Premiership Rugby, Tournaments and Competitions and England representative teams except the senior side
+ A full and co-ordinated schedule of visits to Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs by the national coaching group
+ A full review of senior England team medical and sports science processes and protocols
+ The RFU will make players fully aware of the importance of adhering to core values when representing England
+ The RFU will improve communication between the players, the RPA and the RFU commercial department on planned commercial activities
+ The RFU will create a stable and trusted management structure for the governance of the RFU itself and to support the senior England team
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter