Andrew clings on as RFU hits 'rock bottom'


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The Independent Online

Brian Smith, the England attack coach ferociously attacked by his own players – confidentially at first, then publicly as a result of the latest and most serious of a long line of Rugby Football Union leaks – bowed to the inevitable yesterday and resigned, following the manager, Martin Johnson, through Twickenham's exit door. Rob Andrew, the much-criticised director of elite rugby, did the opposite, which was just as predictable.

"The reality of my job is that I am not the England team manager," Andrew said in an interview with the BBC. "I absolutely accept responsibility for what is going on here, but does it mean I'm going to resign? No, I'm not. Does it mean it's all broken? No, it doesn't," even though Andrew went on to admit the RFU was now at "rock bottom, the lowest of the low".

Things were busy at Twickenham, with some officials engaged in hunting down the person responsible for leaking three reports into the World Cup shambles and others ensuring that one of the players at the centre of those reports, the centre Mike Tindall, could begin his appeal against a £25,000 fine – imposed earlier this month by the governing body – in a degree of privacy. The hearing was moved to a secret location, with the union insisting that no details of the findings would be revealed until today.

Tindall's drunken antics during a Johnson-sanctioned night out in Queenstown led to swathes of negative publicity in New Zealand, but the bad news generated by the leaking of players' comments about the management and each other has caused far greater damage.

Andrew said he had no idea who the culprit might be, although there were suggestions last night that Judge Jeff Blackett, the RFU's chief disciplinary officer, was making speedy progress with his investigation. Andrew clearly felt that the leaked material, as presented to the public, had little in the way of context attached to it.

Smith's resignation surprised no one. The one senior coach appointed by Johnson, the Australian was heavily criticised in the Rugby Players' Association review presented to the Professional Game Board last week. "I feel England have made great strides in the last three years," he said, combatively, "and although the World Cup was a massive disappointment, we won 10 of our last 13 games."

Club rugby returns tonight with games at Worcester, who face Bath, and Sale, who host Exeter. Suddenly, the Premiership fraternity are on rugby's moral high ground. Two good games this evening will be two more than England played in New Zealand.