Ian Ritchie has 'no regrets' over naming Stuart Lancaster as England head coach despite 2015 Rugby World Cup debacle

The RFU's chief executive stood by the decision to appoint Lancaster instead of more illustrious options despite suffering the early World Cup exit at their home tournament

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The Independent Online

Outgoing Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie insists he has “no regrets” about hiring Stuart Lancaster as England head coach, despite turning down the likes of Nick Mallett and Wayne Smith and suffering the embarrassingly early exit at their home Rugby World Cup in 2015.

The pool stage exit 20 months ago led to Lancaster’s dismissal and the subsequent pursuit of Eddie Jones in what proved a get-him-at-all-costs approach from the RFU, but Ritchie said on Thursday that he felt for Lancaster and his coaching team, adding that they were only knocked out of the World Cup due to those final “20 minutes against Wales”.

“Of course you think about that, of course you think, and hindsight's a wonderful thing,” Ritchie said, just a day after announcing that he will step down from his role at the end of the summer.

“Stuart is a highly talented, highly committed coach. At the end of 2011 all those things were under some attack within the union as a whole, never mind the England team.

“The appointment of Stuart was consistent with that at the time. I still think Stuart did a huge number of positive things, but the ultimate is what we did.

 “To be clear I have no regrets about Stuart at all, and I really feel for Stuart and what he put in and the whole coaching team.”

Ritchie has decided to retire from executive roles after the last five years took their toll, with RFU chairman Andy Cosslett confirming that the process to appoint his successor has already begun and should conclude before the start of the new season.

He will leave the position having been successful in lobbying for the residency rule to be extended from three to five years, with World Rugby confirming the change last weekend that will take effect from the end of 2020. However, that has not stopped Jones from making two controversial inclusions in his England training squad after calling up Gloucester’s Willi Heinz and Bristol’s Jason Woodward, both New Zealand-born players with English heritage through grandparents.

Jones came out swinging earlier this week to insist he is only playing by the rules set by World Rugby and the RFU, and Ritchie confirmed that the head coach has their full backing in his selection decisions, no matter how controversial.

“We absolutely lobbied for the extension for five years,” said Ritchie. “We were at the forefront of that. If you have a three-year rule, you utilise that rule.

“I don't think there's anything inconsistent there. Eddie knows what the rules are, he sticks to the rules and is entitled to pick who he wants to pick.”

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