Rugby Union

Sir Clive Woodward involvement would spell the end for Lancaster

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In the wake of becoming the first host nation to be knocked out of the group stage of the Rugby World Cup, the post-mortem has begun for England.

Top priority for the RFU review will be the future of coach Stuart Lancaster's. Headed by chief executive Ian Ritchie, an ironic situation considering it was Ritchie who gave Lancaster a contract until 2020, this review is focused solely on management.

If, despite his assertion he isn't' interested in the role, Sir Clive Woodward were to replace Rob Andrew as director of rugby, he would inherit control over future coaching appointments, thus being in all likelihood the writing on the wall for Lancaster.

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Sitting 8th in the world rankings without a Six Nations title since 2011 and a grand slam since 2003, England haven't progressed. Despite the faith placed in Woodward following his own World Cup disappointment in 1999, it is unlikely the World Cup winning coach would install similar faith in the current incumbent.

Selection under Lancaster, especially in the midfield, has been utterly chaotic whilst no other top coach would have compromised his own side's strengths in order to nullify the opposition's, as Lancaster did prior to the Wales game, by picking Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess rather than George Ford and Henry Slade.

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Woodward's own record was far from faultless, as argued by Paul Hayward in The Daily Telegraph yesterday. The lack of continuity after 2003 and the Lions debacle of 2005, are both serious blots on his C.V.

England under Woodward peaked in the autumn of 2002 when they beat New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in consecutive weeks. This form continued into the 2003 Six Nations and the subsequent summer tour down under, but by the time of the World Cup at the end of a hectic international season, England were beginning to creak.

All teams go in cycles and England had reached their peak with a subsequent drop-off inevitable; no team has ever as of yet retained the Web Ellis cup. Conversely though Woodward undoubtedly focused too much on logistics and getting things right away from the pitch on the Lions tour of 2005, the reality is that New Zealand were a side at the peak of their powers with Dan Carter, widely viewed as the best fly-half of his generation and perhaps ever, producing the form of his life.

Australia's example and Michael Cheika's work in turning around Australia in a year should condemn Lancaster's future and a quality appointment is required. Despite reaching the final in 2007, England have underachieved for over a decade and a Southern Hemisphere coach may be required.

Eddie Jones, the coach of the tournament regardless of the fact the tournament is still at the quarter-final stage, stated last week: "I listen to everyone that talks to me". Having signed a contract with the Stormers in the Super 15 Jones cannot publically express his interest, however; working with his old adversary Woodward would undoubtedly appeal to the former Australia coach.

If Jones isn't available Jake White, the man who won the 2007 World Cup as head coach of South Africa, would be another worthy candidate whilst Shaun Edwards would also represent an improvement.

With their wealth of resources, the RFU must look once again to establish the national side as a force in world rugby. Though blessed with an array of talents, Woodward broke convention and pushed England ahead of the southern hemisphere giants.

Accepting this failure at our own tournament along with four consecutive second-place finishes in the Six Nations could establish a culture of mediocrity, and faith must be invested in Woodward and his subsequent appointment to prevent this.

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Topics:
Rugby Union
England Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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