Andrew narrowly ahead in race for England top job

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union is expected to announce its new director of élite rugby later today. Of the two candidates, Rob Andrew is still the marginal favourite, but the four-man panel given the task of finding the right man for the job of getting England back on track has found the decision-making process long and hard.

Andrew's rival for the post, Sir Clive Woodward, certainly has an impressive CV, although he did not endear himself to the Premiership clubs during his previous reign. But under Woodward England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup. And the new man's job, whatever happens next year, will be to focus on the long-term target of the 2011 tournament for a repeat of that success.

If Andrew gets the nod, it would please the clubs. During his 11 years in charge at Newcastle, the former England fly-half has been a regular critic of the Twickenham administration, constantly fighting the clubs' corner.

The two men each have their supporters on the panel. Bill Beaumont, who captained England to a Grand Slam in 1980, is a Woodward man. John Spencer, another former captain, backs Andrew. The management board's chairman, Martyn Thomas, began the quest as a Woodward supporter, but is believed to have switched to Andrew.

The chief executive, Francis Baron, the fourth member of the panel, is unlikely to be swayed by any perceived rift between him and Woodward, which arose towards the end of the latter's tenure two years ago.

Despite the success enjoyed by England under Woodward and the way the coffers were filled and clubs' membership lists grew following the World Cup triumph, Baron is just as likely to go for something completely different and favour the fresh approach that Andrew would bring to the job.

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