Rugby Union: Rowell and Rossborough in running for manager's job

Click to follow
JACK ROWELL'S hat yesterday went into the ring to become the new England manager, though the big North-easterner, who manages England A and coaches Bath, gently doffed, rather than threw, it.

So is he interested? 'I must be,' he said. 'I wouldn't have got involved with England's A / B set-up if I didn't aspire to higher things.' These remarks can be taken to mean Rowell would dearly like the opportunity.

It has arisen because of Monday's abrupt announcement by Geoff Cooke, the England manager since 1987, that he would resign after the Wales game on 19 March. Saturday's Paris match, for which Cooke had named his team in the knowledge of his imminent farewell, will be his penultimate in charge.

Though the need for an appointment is pressing in view of selection for the England tour to South Africa which immediately follows the season, the Rugby Football Union is unlikely to finalise its choice until the executive committee meets on 8 April. The full committee meeting on 18 March would be too early, the RFU secretary, Dudley Wood, said yesterday.

The difficulties Cooke has so far identified - personal and business - could equally well apply to Rowell, who is chief executive of the Dalgety food conglomerate in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. This is at least as high- powered as Cooke's as chief executive of the National Coaching Foundation, but Rowell has for years managed to juggle his time so as to maintain his commitment to Bath and more recently the A team.

Meanwhile, the other principal candidate, Peter Rossborough, is also weighing up how he could combine play with work, in his case the headship of a comprehensive school - in Rugby, as it happens. But he is careful not to rule himself out.

'The whole thing is a major surprise,' he said. 'I feel very sad for Geoff because he was doing such an outstanding job and must feel very disappointed. There are a number of strong candidates: Jack (Rowell), John Elliott (the England selector) and a number of others with management experience.' Like Peter Rossborough.

The former Coventry and England full-back made a good job of managing the England tour to Canada last summer in Cooke's absence with the Lions. Already the Midlands coach, Rossborough became England A coach this season when Rowell was reluctantly moved to manager after two largely successful years coaching at this level, including the 1992 B tour to New Zealand.

Rowell established his credentials in club rugby, first with Gosforth, whom he coached in their halcyon days in the mid-1970s, and then with Bath, over whom he has presided as coach and patriarch since 1978. 'It has been a lifetime's work at Bath and to have to give it up would be a major wrench,' he acknowledged yesterday.

It is certain Rowell would not want the England job if it carried any less power and influence than under Cooke. The RFU coaching sub-committee has been asked to make its nomination; that this committee is chaired by Graham Smith is a neat irony since it was Smith who managed that B tour of New Zealand and at the time appeared to be Cooke's logical successor.