Clive Woodward rules himself out of RFU performance director role

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The Independent Online

World Cup winner Sir Clive Woodward tonight left his Twickenham supporters reeling after ruling himself out of a possible return to English rugby's corridors of power.

Woodward, the architect of England's 2003 World Cup triumph in Australia, had been installed as clear favourite to become the Rugby Football Union's first performance director.

But Woodward, 55, has underlined his total commitment to the British Olympic Association and confirmed he would not be attending any interviews with the RFU.

A senior Twickenham source told Press Association Sport that no appointment would be made without a candidate going through the full interview process, scotching any suggestion that Woodward could be approached and directly offered the job.

Woodward revealed he had participated in "informal conversations" with "senior figures" at the RFU, but that no formal interview had taken place.

The performance director position has proved a hot topic of debate in recent weeks at Twickenham and beyond, and when the initial job description was unexpectedly diluted in terms of its powers, many doubted Woodward would retain interest.

But the RFU management board, on a narrow majority vote, then effectively reinstated the old job specification, with current England manager Martin Johnson reporting directly to the performance director after the World Cup in New Zealand later this year. Johnson's existing contract expires in December.

That was seen as a victory for Woodward's backers in the RFU.

The interview process is understood to have been put back to the beginning of next month, but when it does start, Woodward will not feature for a job created by RFU chief executive John Steele's recent restructuring plan.

And Steele could now find himself having to placate dissenting voices within the RFU amid fears of possible political fall-out, although it is known others at Twickenham would take a polar opposite view.

Woodward, the British Olympic Association's director of sport and Team GB deputy chef de mission for London 2012, said: "Since the Rugby Football Union announced its restructuring plan late last year, there has been considerable speculation that I might return to the RFU.

"With the full knowledge of Colin Moynihan (BOA chairman) and Andy Hunt (BOA chief executive), I have had informal conversations regarding the role of performance director with senior figures at the RFU.

"However, I have not participated in a formal interview for this position at any stage in the RFU process.

"From the outset I made it clear to both Colin and Andy that I would only attend a formal interview with their full knowledge.

"I would like to express my thanks for their understanding over this situation, and also for their considered views which have been greatly appreciated.

"In order to prevent any further speculation, and in the interests of the both the BOA and RFU, I would like to formally confirm that I will not be attending any interviews for this position.

"I am totally committed to my role as director of sport at the British Olympic Association and deputy chef de mission for Team GB in London 2012.

"We have an historic opportunity ahead, when more than 500 of Britain's most accomplished Olympic athletes will represent Team GB, at home, in the London 2012 Games.

"May I wish the RFU all the best in its search to find the appropriate candidate for this very important role for English rugby, going forward.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Martin Johnson, his coaching team and all of his players every success, but especially for this year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, which all rugby fans are looking forward to."

Woodward's announcement was welcomed by both Moynihan and Hunt.

Moynihan said: "Clive's decision to forgo possible opportunities with the RFU and remain with the British Olympic Association is welcome news for Team GB.

"As we work to provide British athletes and their NGBs with the highest levels of service and support in connection with their participation in major international Games, the work Clive and his sport team are doing is critical."

And Hunt added: "We are now in the critical phase of our planning and preparation for Team GB in London 2012.

"And I am delighted to know Clive will continue making important contributions to those efforts as a member of our delegation leadership team and as our director of sport.

"Clive understands exactly what it takes to deliver under intense pressure. He has been successful in converting years of planning and preparation into success on the field of play."

The RFU must now decide whether to retain its current shortlist of two names, or increase it back to three.

Woodward apart, other names linked with the performance director post include current RFU academy boss Stuart Lancaster and England Cricket managing director Hugh Morris.

The RFU said tonight: "In all of our seven recent executive recruitment processes we have at no time publicly commented on individuals who may or may not have been involved.

"We have continued to pursue that confidential approach for the performance director search, although it has not proved so straightforward.

"If a potential candidate wishes to rule themselves out, as indeed others have done, then that is their prerogative and it would not be appropriate for the RFU to discuss that person's decision.

"We have been clear that the performance director process moving forward is under review by the board."