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England Rugby
Woodward insists Andrew holds the key to success
ESPNscrum Staff
December 11, 2011

Former England boss Sir Clive Woodward believes that Rob Andrew holds the 'most important role in English rugby'.

The Rugby Football Union recently appointed Stuart Lancaster as the interim England head coach for the Six Nations while they continue their search for a permanent replacement for Martin Johnson but Woodward insists it is professional rugby director Andrew who holds the key to the team's long-term success.

"Contrary to media opinion, Rob Andrew has not been demoted or shifted sideways. He has the most important role in English rugby," the World Cup-winning coach wrote in his column for the Sunday Times. "The research and development department of any organisation is of paramount importance -- and that is his remit. If you compare the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to any global business then he is in charge of their future -- their future "products" and success. This position is more important even than that of head coach."

However, Woodward, who has long been linked with a return to the RFU, has queried the Union's bold attempts to steady the ship after a troubled Rugby World Cup campaign before the appointment of a new chief executive. "I also wonder if the incoming chief executive will be too pleased that the RFU board made these calls before he has arrived. Anyone worth their salt would want to make such vital appointments themselves."

Former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett and ex-All Blacks boss Wayne Smith are reportedly favourites to take charge of England on a permanent basis later this year but Woodward has expressed his desire to see an Englishman offered the opportunity to take the reins of the national team.

"I hope the top man appointed in 2012 will be English or British," he wrote. "I must declare an interest when discussing Leicester's Richard Cockerill as I am on the board of the club, but he has shown good signs. He decided not to offer new contracts to those great England servants, Lewis Moody and Ben Kay. It won him no popularity contests in Leicester, but it was a brave thing to do and showed me he has the necessary steel to take on an international job.

"If you look around the English and British/Irish coaches who are working in top-level rugby in England, you find a galaxy of candidates, among them Toby Booth at London Irish, Mark McCall at Saracens, Jim Mallinder at Northampton and Conor O'Shea at Quins. There are also talented coaches in supporting roles -- Mike Catt, Neil Back, Dorian West and Paul Grayson -- all of whom are World Cup winners. It would also be wise for the RFU to take a look at Alex King, the former England fly-half, who is doing wonders at Clermont Auvergne.

"Predictably the next head coach will once again be selected and appointed by committee. Again, this leaves no one accountable for the results and only the head coach with his head on the chopping block."

Woodward, who famously appointed a vast support staff during his tenure, has also called for a fresh approach on that front. "The era of creating a large coaching group around the head coach has passed. That may seem at odds with my own philosophy when I was head coach -- it is well documented that I built up a coterie of specialists to work with our players, something that other countries emulated and which became the norm.

"Lancaster will be joined by only two senior assistants -- Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell -- and it will be up to the new, permanent coach as to how many he wants. The new man needs just two, himself and an assistant coach. Just possibly, there is a case for a defence coach. No others. If you get the right people with the right skillset, two is enough."

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