Cotton to lead RFU review
October 12, 2011
Fran Cotton back in his England days © PA Photos
Former England international Fran Cotton will chair an independent review of the entire Rugby Football Union (RFU) structure including the role of Rob Andrew in the wake of England's disappointing World Cup campaign.
Reports suggest that Cotton, the former RFU vice-chairman, will lead a two or three-strong panel that will include at least one member with no rugby connections. Cotton's team will be charged with reviewing the performance of the RFU's professional rugby department and assessing Andrew's own report into England's failed World Cup campaign.
The independent panel will undertake their review in November and then make recommendations to the RFU's management board and the council on December 2. Andrew's current role is as Twickenham's rugby operations director and he has been nominally in charge of the whole England structure since the RFU failed to appoint a performance director. That episode culminated in John Steele's departure as chief executive and led to another RFU management restructure.
Andrew announced on Sunday, as England reflected on their World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, that he had accepted the new position of professional rugby director. That role was created to oversee the whole England set-up and the RFU's relationship with Premiership Rugby and the Championship - but Andrew's appointment is yet to be rubber-stamped.
Cotton's panel will have the power to recommend the person they believe should head up the professional rugby department. That could be Andrew. But the fact he is not a guaranteed choice will also open the door to the possibility of Sir Clive Woodward returning to Twickenham as the new head of professional rugby.
Cotton was a leading critic of Steele's decision to change the job description of the performance director, which led to Woodward pulling out of contention. He told BBC Radio Five Live at the time: "It's probably the most important role in English rugby and world rugby and he's talking about downgrading the role to bring in Mr Average instead of Clive Woodward or (New Zealand coach) Graham Henry, the people England need."
Cotton's panel will also have the power to recommend changes to the England team's management structure. Martin Johnson's contract expires on December 21 and he is currently considering his options. It appears that if Johnson is to continue in charge until England host the World Cup in 2015, he may have to accept working in a new-look structure.
One potential outcome could be the appointment of a senior England team manager - in the mould of New Zealand's Darren Shand - who would be in charge of logistics but also team discipline.
Had England had a figure like that in place during the World Cup it would have been they who would have dealt with all the off-field disciplinary issues, leaving Johnson to focus on the rugby. There is also a theory that the England head coach must have a closer working relationship with the professional rugby director, with the aim of creating a more challenging environment and greater accountability.
Cotton has branded England's World Cup campaign a "failure" and he claimed the squad had not improved on Johnson's watch and lacked leadership. "We were knocked out in the quarter-finals and we played poorly throughout the competition. It is a failure as far as we are concerned," Cotton told Sky Sports News. "Martin has now been in charge three-and-a-half years and it is very difficult to understand what style of play this England rugby team is all about.
"The basic skills of rugby at that level just aren't good enough and I haven't seen an improvement in the last three-and-a-half years. The players have got to take a huge responsibility. When they go on the pitch they are in charge of their own game and it was very obvious in this World Cup that there seems to be a lack of leadership.
"That is not a criticism of (captain) Lewis Moody, who has done a good job. Unfortunately Mike Tindall's incident - forget the incident with the lady in the bar - what concerned me is that one of the leading players and the captain at that time was out at two in the morning and obviously absolutely hammered.
"That is not part of a professional athlete's lifestyle and what example does that set to the younger players in the squad?"
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