After four days of turmoil, Andy Robinson yesterday left his job as England head coach. However, the immediate future at Twickenham is uncertain after the elite rugby director, Rob Andrew, ruled himself out of the running to replace Robinson.
The Rugby Football Union confirmed yesterday that Robinson's two-year, 22-match tenure had ended, some 96 hours after his England team were booed off the Twickenham pitch following defeat to South Africa last Saturday.
However, Andrew said: "I will not be stepping into the breach between now and the Rugby World Cup next September. What we have seen in the last month is the last of the sticking plaster coming off. We can't have another sticking plaster solution. It needs to be long term."
It is just two months before the Six Nations and Twickenham has not yet decided whether to replace Robinson, or whether to create a new role of team manager. "We will not be rushed into making a decision," Andrew said.
He said that no such decision would be made until after a review of England's disastrous autumn international series. Andrew also intimated that the jobs of the three remaining coaches Brian Ashton (attack), John Wells (forwards) and Mike Ford (defence) were all safe, saying: "We have had enough upheaval in the last six months.
"I will be making my recommendations on the way forward for the team to Club England when they meet on 7 December. They will review my report and make their recommendations to the RFU management board for their final decision on 20 December. We will not be making any comment about the appointment of a new head coach until we are ready to do so but all options will be considered."
Andrew conceded that having led the world on the way to winning the 2003 World Cup, English rugby had now been overtaken. "We have been left behind. The other countries' structures have allowed them to leapfrog England in the preparation of elite players."
Andrew, who took up his position in September, pledged to address this. "My job is about the next 10 years as much as it is about the next few months. We have to get the next 10 years right, otherwise we will continually be up against the problems we have had for the last two or three years."
To that end he revealed that a study was under way to determine how to get England and English rugby back on track for success, looking at possible new structures for the professional game. This will embrace the development of home-produced coaches, the structure of the domestic season as well as the management of the international game. "[This study] is in the process of being completed, with expert external advice, and we expect to be in a position to take proposals to the RFU council in January 2007 prior to them going out to Premier Rugby Ltd and the game for wider consultation."
No one would say yesterday whether the 42-year-old Robinson jumped or was pushed. But his statement implied that his hand had been forced. "I have been advised that those who have governance over me the RFU management board do not, and will not, continue to support me as England head coach," Robinson said. "Therefore it is with regret that I have agreed a parting of the ways with the RFU and I will cease to be England head coach with immediate effect."
Robinson added that "the professional game in this country admits that the current structure and system for developing elite rugby players and performance in the international arena is not working".
With severance terms agreed, Robinson can now take up any other post in the game. Bath are, apparently, not interested in appointing him as a full-time rugby director their head coach, Steve Meehan, has a temporary hold on that position.
The contenders And the problems
Martin [Johnson] is someone who is immensely respected for what he's done but I am sure he will be the first to say he does not have a huge amount of coaching experience. But what he does have is an astute rugby brain. It would be nonsensical for him not to be involved, but in what capacity I don't know. It's important to find the next generation of coaches
Lawrence Dallaglio, former England No 8
[Replacing Robinson] is a huge problem. There's nobody around at the moment.Is Warren Gatland going to come up from New Zealand with the state of play as it is? I very much doubt it. We need to get some system in place so our players are managed more effectively than they are at present.
Roger Uttley, former England coach
I'm not sure [the backs coach] Brian Ashton would be the right man to take over. It would take away the focus that Brian has to bring the attacking style to English rugby and if they do want to have someone to work with Brian and [forwards coach] John Wells, the obvious choice would be [Harlequins' director of rugby] Dean Richards because he has worked with John so successfully at Leicester.
Jeff Probyn, former England prop
There should be an overseer to let the coaches to get on with coaching. Heading up the England playing structure is a big enough job on its own, let alone getting the relationship between the clubs and the RFU on a good footing, let alone just managing the England rugby team.
Jeremy Guscott, former England centreReuse content