RFU accused of panic and amateurism over review into England
Five different reviews in progress, two extremely different opinions on how English rugby should react to the embarrassing failure of Martin Johnson's side to make a mark on this World Cup after three and a half years of plotting – or even to achieve the minimum standards of application and professionalism expected of the best-resourced team in the sport.
Yesterday, as the rest of Planet Union concerned itself with a compelling semi-final programme, those in charge of the red-rose game continued to argue among themselves, with little prospect of an early end to political hostilities.
The decision of Martyn Thomas, acting chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, to ask his old friend and ally Fran Cotton to head an external review of recent goings-on so infuriated the leadership of the elite club movement in England that heated exchanges have been two a penny. "It beggars belief, the way the union has acted," said Mark McCafferty, the CEO of Premiership Rugby. "When it is faced with a moment of high pressure, this is what happens. We had a process in place, agreed with Martyn Thomas in the room: the Professional Game Board [the body that brings together representatives of Twickenham, the leading clubs and the players' union] was meant to be the body doing the reviewing. We're more than disappointed. People have to realise that a professional game needs to be run by professionals. End of story."
McCafferty, who accused Thomas of "panic management", expects the RFU council meeting on 2 December to be a watershed event. "When we put our review to that meeting and recommend x, y and z, what will the members do? Ignore it? I don't think the game will accept that kind of thing any more," he said.
"The council need to decide who they're going to follow. Are they going to entrust the future to the PGB, which is truly representative of all the interests at the top end of the sport, or to people who have been making the decisions over the last six months or so?"
McCafferty also took a swipe at Cotton, who has already taken to the airwaves with his criticisms of Johnson's performance. "If the first act of someone heading up a review is to comment publicly on individuals and sit in judgement ... in most walks of life, that would ensure he was removed from the task," he pointed out, not unreasonably.
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