RFU open to overseas appointment
March 1, 2012
New RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie dropped in on England training last month © Getty Images
The Rugby Football Union's new chief executive Ian Ritchie insists that nationality will have no bearing on who is chosen as England's new coach.
Ritchie, who began work at English rugby's HQ this week, has insisted his only concern is recruiting the right man to deliver England the best chance of success in the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil. England's current interim coach Stuart Lancaster has applied for the full-time post and he is thought to be up against Nick Mallett, the Hertfordshire-born South African, and former Ireland boss Eddie O'Sullivan.
Ritchie, who took office on Monday after moving to the RFU from Wimbledon tennis, wants to confirm an appointment before the end of the Six Nations with a view to the candidate being in place for the summer tour of South Africa and will conduct interviews over the next three weeks.
"All you can do is look at the list of applicants and then choose what we believe is the best person," Ritchie said. "Let's be clear, the primary function is who is the best person, who is going to pick the team, coach the team and produce a winning team?
"What I have said applies irrespective of nationality. I start with no preconceived ideas. If there was an English coach that is great news. But the most important thing is who is best person; that doesn't matter to me what nationality they are.
"We are talking about here is competing at the highest level in world rugby. What everybody wants, what I want, what you all want is a highly competitive England team that is the best possible. I have the highest regard for a number of English coaches. I think the fundamental thing is get the best person to do the job. The nationality is not to me the most important thing."
Ritchie's rugby knowledge is limited but he is consulting an advisory panel which comprises Sir Ian McGeechan, Conor O'Shea, Rob Andrew and Richard Hill before taking his final recommendation to the RFU board for approval. The RFU's self-imposed timescale means Lancaster will be interviewed for the permanent position before the end of the championship, and before the end of his live audition.
"We are going to see Stuart while the Six Nations is under way. I appreciate it puts more pressure on Stuart because he has the day job to getting on with. It is helpful to be able to do that so we can move the process on," Ritchie said. "Timetable-wise I would hope, believe, we should be in a situation to do it by the end, towards the end, of the Six Nations."
Lancaster has impressed RFU executives since taking over the England reins from Johnson, who stood down as head coach in the wake of a disastrous World Cup campaign. But Ritchie must weigh up Lancaster's impact with the greater international and World Cup experience of those thought to be on the shortlist.
"I think Stuart has done a fantastic job," Ritchie said. "I think he's clearly entered a very difficult position, he's done a lot of things that you could point to that we would all agree are the right things to have done.
"If you talk to him, and I've managed to spend some time with him, he is a an impressive person. Selection, however, is all about comparisons. What we need to look at with regard to Stuart is how does Stuart stack up against the other candidates?"
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