Steele set to shake up RFU
January 5, 2011
Rob Andrew, John Steele and Martin Johnson chat at Twickenham © Getty Images
RFU chief executive John Steele is expected to recommend significant changes to the structure of the English governing body on Wednesday.
Steele launched a comprehensive review of the RFU, from grass-roots to governance, when he replaced Francis Baron in charge at Twickenham four months ago.
The former UK Sport boss set out to strengthen the management of the RFU in preparation for hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup and he will present his plans to the management board on Wednesday.
Steele's recommendations will not impact on Martin Johnson and the England coaching team but an RFU spokesman said that "tough decisions" have been taken at executive level. Rob Andrew's position as England's elite rugby director is one of those to have come under the microscope. Andrew is not expected to leave the RFU but it is likely his role will be redefined.
Should Steele's plan be approved then a new position in the elite department would also be created - a role it is understood would suit a figure like Sir Clive Woodward. England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach is currently performance director at the British Olympic Association. Eddie Jones, the former Australia head coach and Woodward's former sparring partner, has also expressed an interest should such a position become available.
The RFU have already announced the departure of business operations director Paul Vaughan, who is taking over as chief executive of England Rugby 2015. Terry Burwell, the RFU's competitions and tournament director, has also been linked with a role at the World Cup organising company.
An RFU spokesman said: "This has been a comprehensive review. John has had to make some tough decisions and there will be significant change. The point of the review was not to cut costs but to make sure the RFU is in the right organisational shape as we enter an exciting period building towards the 2015 World Cup."
The brief Andrew was given when he beat Woodward to the job of elite rugby director in 2006 was wide-ranging. Andrew successfully brokered a deal with the Premiership clubs and is now responsible for managing the elite player agreement as well as referee development and England representative teams at all levels.
Over the last four years, Andrew has seen two England coaches depart their post - Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton - and the appointment of Johnson. The creation of a performance director would fit with Steele's plan to ensure rugby is once again placed right at the heart of the RFU's remit.
Baron transformed the union's finances but the focus of Steele's tenure is to maximise the benefits to rugby at all levels of hosting the 2015 World Cup.
A successful England team is central to that. England defied the odds to reach the 2007 World Cup final but they have not won a Six Nations title since Woodward's all-conquering team of 2003. But England are beginning to reap the rewards of their age-group success in recent years.
Johnson's senior side are now up to fourth in the world rankings and there are promising signs for the future, with the likes of Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Dan Cole making their mark on the Test scene having come through the academy structure.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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