Johnson touted in RFU search for successor

Andy Robinson, who presided over England's eighth defeat in nine matches on Saturday, has started compiling his report on the world champions' impoverished performances in the four-match autumn series - a document he hopes and prays will convince the Rugby Football Union to keep him on the payroll for another 18 months. Robinson may not even get the chance to table it. Francis Baron, the chief executive of the RFU, is widely suspected to be pressing for the head coach's immediate dismissal as a direct consequence of the weekend failure against South Africa.

Baron, who exasperated many members of the RFU council by splashing out £200,000 on match-day entertainment when the All Blacks played at the redeveloped Twickenham earlier this month, is deeply concerned by the negative commercial consequences of England's slide down the world rankings and fears he will continue to struggle to balance the books unless he shows swift and decisive leadership. However, Robinson points to an established decision-making process involving both the Club England committee and the union's management board and expects it to be implemented.

In this, he has a large degree of support on Club England, a committee chaired by the former centre John Spencer and including the likes of Geoff Cooke, who successfully coached the national team between 1988 and 1994, and Bill Beaumont, who led the side to a Grand Slam in 1980. The members are deeply concerned that Baron will push the newly appointed elite rugby director, Rob Andrew, into taking unilateral action against Robinson, rather than following the agreed procedure. The committee does not meet again until a week on Thursday.

The situation is complicated by Robinson's imminent departure for Paris, where head coaches from all points of the compass are gathering for a three-day meeting ahead of next year's World Cup. In the immediate aftermath of Saturday's depressing proceedings, he confirmed his plans to travel to France. He also insisted he would not "walk away" from the position he has held since Sir Clive Woodward resigned in 2004.

"I'll stand my ground," he said. "I need time to write what I think, but I'll be honest and up-front in assessing how we need to improve. It will then be down to the management board to take this into account before making the decisions they need to make."

There is no shortage of names in the frame to replace Robinson, whose chances of survival are no better than 20 per cent. Astonishingly, the World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson was being pushed yesterday, despite his complete lack of experience in either coaching or team management. There is some support on Club England for Johnson's former Leicester colleague Dean Richards, now director of rugby at Harlequins and an infinitely more realistic proposition. Some RFU figures want the union to look abroad - the New Zealander Warren Gatland, the South African Nick Mallett and the Australian Eddie Jones are among the usual suspects - while others consider Richard Hill of Bristol and Dean Ryan of Gloucester to be more appropriate targets.

Whichever way the union turns, it will find itself paying through the nose. Gatland, who left Wasps for his native Waikato last year and is considered heir apparent to the All Blacks post, is under contract until after the World Cup; Jones recently took up a Super 14 role with Queensland; Hill has just extended his deal with Bristol until 2010. If the RFU hierarchy shares its chief executive's concerns about money,it has two choices: stick with Robinson, or persuade Andrew to move outside his job description and go hands-on with the Test team.

Until Saturday's game, Andrew was entirely supportive of Robinson continuing through to the World Cup. He defended the head coach's record in the aftermath of the painful capitulation to Argentina, persuading the most important figures at Twickenham - Baron, Spencer and the RFU chairman, Martyn Thomas - that there was no benefit to be gained from another restructuring of the backroom team. According to one insider, "everything depends on whether Rob has changed his view, or been persuaded to change it, as a result of this latest defeat".

Andrew must tread carefully, though. By agreeing to sit on selection with Robinson and the three specialist coaches - John Wells, Brian Ashton and Mike Ford - he is as implicated in the failures of the last four weeks as any of his colleagues. Had Robinson been wholly responsible for the shape of the team and its tactics, his position would have been untenable. While he is not looking terribly good as it is, neither is anyone else.

As things stand, England have one get-together before the start of the 2007 Six Nations Championship - a three-day gathering at Loughborough University beginning on 22 January. Given the strained relations between the union and the top-flight clubs, there is no guarantee of a Premiership-based replacement being appointed in time for that session. A foreign coach might be even more elusive. One way or another, English rugby is up a gum tree.

Next England head coach, betting: 2-1 Martin Johnson; 7-2 Warren Gatland; 5-1 Rob Andrew; 6-1 Nick Mallet; 8-1 Richard Hill, Brian Ashton, Dean Richards; 12-1 Clive Woodward; 20-1 John Wells, Mike Ford.

Friends and foes in the blame game

"It's our silly unforced errors which got them back in the game. I think it's very unfair to put the blame on the coach." Martin Corry, England captain

"The things we are doing wrong are all individual basic errors... That is not Robbo's fault, let's make no bones about it." Andy Goode, England fly-half

"We take representing our country very seriously, and I don't think we lacked effort. We gave away silly penalties." Josh Lewsey, England full-back

"We don't have any combinations that are working. Unfortunately, Andy Robinson has to take responsibility for that." Will Carling, ex-England captain

"An old and tired era bereft of ideas must come to an end - and with it the international career of Andy Robinson." Stuart Barnes, former England fly-half.

"Robinson... and his assistants had four weeks to fashion a game plan and they haven't managed it." Paul Ackford, former England lock.

"What remedy can Robinson provide? I believe he is a good coach but he is far from a good manager." Jonathan Davies, pundit

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence