Stuart Lancaster's rapid and remarkable ascent from stand-in to supremo in the England set-up was all but confirmed following the announcement of the findings of an independent review into the Twickenham set-up following the national side's poor showing at the 2011 World Cup.
The Rugby Football Union is to create a new role of head of international player development, with the successful applicant answering to Lancaster. The England head coach will also lead a newly created department for international performance, into which the new appointment will fit, with Rob Andrew moved to lead a professional rugby department under a separation of powers. Except the powers will lie largely with Lancaster as the shake-up leaves the international side, at all levels from age group upwards, under his guidance less than a year after he was given the England job on a permanent basis.
The report, compiled by Peter Keen, who while at UK Sport played a key role in Britain's Olympic success, and Ian McGeechan, also recommended establishing a national performance centre – effectively a rugby version of football's St George's Park, with the aim to have the centre up and running "within 12 months of the Rugby World Cup in 2015."
Lancaster will have a say in the new appointment, as will Andrew, according to Ian Ritchie, the RFU's chief executive. The recruitment process will begin "within a matter of weeks".
The chief executive said: "This is a hugely significant role for the future of England rugby. It is a seriously grown-up role."
Ritchie denied that this elevated Lancaster into what is effectively the role of a performance director at Twickenham but it leaves the 43-year-old in a position of some strength. Ritchie also rejected suggestions that, should poor results cause Lancaster to lose his job as coach, that would require wholesale change throughout this newly established international structure. It is unclear what would happen to Lancaster's position as head of the new international performance department were he to be dismissed as coach.
"Stuart believes this is absolutely the right way to go," said Ritchie. "We have been very careful in looking how this works."
Ritchie described the head of international player development role as a "clear RFU full-time, permanent position" and not linked to whoever sits above him as head of department.
Andrew, who as the director of elite rugby first appointed Lancaster to a role at the RFU four years ago, finds himself removed from dealings with England sides. His role will be to oversee anti-doping, medicine, referee development and, most importantly, the relationship with the clubs, in particular the upcoming head of agreement renegotiations over player availability.
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