RFU confirms Ford and Wells exit
December 21, 2011
Out of the original 2011 World Cup coaching team, only Graham Rowntree remains © Getty Images
England's coaching team came under intense scrutiny following a disappointing Rugby World Cup campaign that ended with a quarter-final defeat to France. Team manager Martin Johnson has since departed and he was soon joined by both attack coach Brian Smith and kicking specialist Dave Alred. And the RFU has now confirmed that forwards coach Wells and defence coach Ford will not have their contracts renewed.
The news does not come as a surprise following the unveiling of England's interim coaching team for the 2012 Six Nations with only Graham Rowntree retained from the previous management team. He will serve as assistant to head coach Stuart Lancaster with Saracens first team coach Andy Farrell completing the three-man team.
The RFU's acting chief executive Stephen Brown has paid tribute to Ford and Wells for their contribution to the international team during a five-year spell that saw them work with former coaches Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton as well as Johnson. "John and Mike have given great service to England and rugby in this country over many years and their contribution is appreciated.
"As well as his role with the senior team, John has played a major part in developing players as a National Academy coach since he joined the RFU in 2005. In his five-and-a-half years with the senior team Mike created one of the best defences in world rugby, and while the World Cup was obviously disappointing overall, it should be noted that England conceded just three tries in their five matches - the joint lowest in the tournament. On behalf of the RFU I would like to wish them well in the next stages of their careers."
Following the poor World Cup campaign, the infamous leaking of the confidential reviews into the campaign slammed the coaches. But Wells maintains that he departs the RFU on good terms and wishes the incumbent coaching side well for the forthcoming Six Nations.
"It has been a real privilege and a great honour to have been involved with the RFU for the last six years. I have been part of a very successful National Academy and England Saxons set up and been to two World Cups including a World Cup final in 2007, with the victories over Australia in Marseille and France in Paris as stunning highlights with the England team," Wells said. "Now is the right time to move on to look for a new challenge within the game.
"I am proud to be leaving at the end of a year in which England has introduced a wealth of young talent, won 10 out of 13 games and are the current Six Nations champions.
"I consider myself very fortunate to have worked with some great coaches and I would like to thank Robbo, Brian Ashton and Johno for the opportunity and Brian Smith, Mike Ford and Wig [Graham Rowntree] for putting up with my "old school' ideals! I wish Stuart [Lancaster], Wig, Faz [Andy Farrell] and the rest of the England crew all the very best in the defence of their Six Nations title."
Ford had previously spoken of his amicable resolution with the RFU and reiterated Wells' good wishes. Ford said: "To be England's defence coach over the last five-and-a-half years has been an absolute honour and I have worked with some great players and management. The World Cup was a watershed and it is time for a new environment. I wish Stuart and everyone the very best for the Six Nations and I firmly believe that England can win it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton