Rugby Union: Cotton is poised to take key role again

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The Independent Online
FRAN COTTON could return as a major figure in English rugby if his Reform Group pushes through a vote of no confidence in the current Rugby Football Union Management Board.

Cotton's aim is to oust the Management Board and return as the head of an emergency board, along with another former England captain, Bill Beaumont.

Cotton, the president of the Reform Group and a former England captain and Lions' manager, resigned as the vice-chairman of the RFU Management Board last April. Now the reformers have called a special general meeting that will attack Brian Baister's board and call for them to quit. Only the RFU president Peter Trunkfield and its new chief executive Francis Baron are excepted to escape the reformers' axe.

Also heading for the exit door are England's International Rugby Board representatives, John Jeavons-Fellows and Malcolm Phillips.

The Reform Group accuses the board of "crass management, lurching from crisis to crisis and bringing the game into ridicule and disrepute". It has collected the required 100 signatures and hopes for the backing of the majority of the RFU's 2,000 clubs.

Its potential board would comprise Trunkfield, Baron, Cotton, Beaumont and four others to serve until the RFU's July annual general meeting.

Martyn Thomas, the chairman of the Reform Group, has issued a manifesto stating: "The Five Nations fiasco led to people throughout the world to call for heads to roll."

Thomas lists an eight-point criticism: "1, The Board have fought the Five Nations and lost; 2, Fought the IRB and lost; 3, Fallen out with the organisers of the European Cup; 4, Pandered to the owner clubs on League structure, regardless of the Leagues below; 5, Put the financial future of all clubs at risk; 6, Sacrificed the needs of the grass-roots clubs to satisfy a few owners' appetites; 7, Presided over the reduction in numbers playing the game; 8, Brought the game into public ridicule and humiliation."

Thomas added: "We have been let down by the Management Board. Sanity, dignity and decency must be restored. We need leadership and people with vision to sort out the mess, ensure that the game is properly run and not lurching from crisis to crisis.

"We owe it to ourselves to bring the management of the game back to rugby people. This is a sad but historic moment in the annals of rugby.

"Never have the clubs felt such a common aim to seek a special general meeting over the Union's affairs. The request comes from every level of the game below Premiership One, not just the junior clubs."

The plan was to dovetail the meeting with a scheduled special general meeting, called by the RFU in Birmingham on 28 March, which is being asked to approve reforms of the RFU Council and committees.

But the Reform Group request is too late, leading to a later meeting at high cost to the Union's strained coffers.

In Scotland, the Glasgow Hawks coach Iain Russell has urged his team to rediscover their killer instinct or forfeit their chance of winning the Premiership. Hawks face Watsonians at Anniesland for the second time in a fortnight today, with Russell still frustrated in the wake of the 9-9 draw at Myreside.

"It was a very annoying experience for us because of the number of scoring opportunities we threw away. We created enough openings to have won by at least 20 points but we failed to accept any of them," he said. "If the same thing happens this weekend we will almost certainly be out of the running for the championship."