Ashton: there has been no approach by RFU


These are startling times for everyone involved in rugby, but few people have been as flabbergasted in recent weeks as Brian Ashton, the former England coach who currently spends his on-field time in Lancashire, working with the National Division One club Fylde.

Ashton woke up yesterday morning to find himself being widely linked with a return to Twickenham in a caretaker role with red-rose team, who are currently in need of leadership after the resignation of Martin Johnson as manager a week ago. It came as something of a shock to the system, to say the least.

"I have no idea where all this started," he said, suitably bemused. "The one thing I do know is that I've had no conversation on the subject with anyone from the Rugby Football Union, received no approach and certainly not been offered anything.

"In fact," he added, "I haven't had any sort of formal discussion with anyone from the governing body for the best part of a year."

Ashton, who led England to a second successive World Cup final in France four years ago, lost his job with the national team in controversial circumstances after the 30-point Six Nations victory over Ireland in 2008 – a development many members of the governing body now bitterly regret.

With Nick Mallett, the South African coach, warm favourite to take up the reins in the spring, the short-term coaching team is likely to feature Stuart Lancaster, who runs the second-string Saxons team, and Graham Rowntree, the one member of the existing senior back-room staff who escaped criticism following the World Cup misfire in New Zealand last month.