Andrew clings on


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The great Twickenham witch-hunt finally ended yesterday, without a ceremonial burning. Rob Andrew – rugby's No 1 bogeyman since the end of England's laughably inept World Cup challenge in New Zealand, a campaign that was led not by Andrew but by Martin Johnson – survived a major threat to his continued employment when he was formally appointed to a new job by the Rugby Football Union's management board. What is more, there is now no prospect of Sir Clive Woodward playing a role in red-rose affairs in the foreseeable future.

Andrew is now the Professional Rugby Director, with responsibility for the entire elite end of the England operation, up to – but, crucially, not including – the Test team. That will be run exclusively by a new head coach, to be appointed before the three-Test trip to South Africa in June. Senior Twickenham figures say they will scour the world for the right man, but that man appears to be staring them in the face already. Nick Mallett, the former Springboks coach (below), is a very hot favourite indeed.

Attacks on Andrew since the global gathering in All Black country have intensified in recent days, but Ian Metcalfe, chairman of the increasingly influential Professional Game Board, mounted a strong defence of the former Lions outside-half when he emerged from yesterday's long and urgent management board debate. Asked whether Andrew had been in any way exonerated for his perceived failings on the England front, Metcalfe commented: "Rob has accepted responsibility for his share of the things that went wrong, but one of the ways we as a union failed Rob was in not presenting his role with sufficient clarity.

"There is definitely a perception issue here: we are conscious of the views of the average rugby supporter, many of whom don't understand what he does. We discussed this at great length. Why is Rob still in a job? Because he has done a lot of great things for the union over an extended period of time."

Woodward, the World Cup-winning coach in 2003, had been heavily linked with a return to Twickenham in a beefed-up version of Andrew's previous role of director of elite rugby. Metcalfe scotched that idea in no uncertain terms by stating categorically that the new head coach would report directly to the chief executive, pretty much as Mallett suggested when quizzed on England's management structure earlier this week.