Peter Bills: Appointing Clive Woodward is a step backwards

I always thought the RFU would appoint Clive Woodward to become their new elite performance director.

The fact that I wrote a column weeks ago saying that it was time they moved on, consigned Woodward to the past and embraced the future, never altered my deep-seated suspicion that when push came to shove they’d choose Woodward.

The reason is simple. This is still an organisation that remains steeped in the past, not the future. It continues to view what has gone before with greater relish, a kind of longing if you like, rather than choosing a tougher course by getting out and confronting the future.

‘Carpe Diem’ would not be the maxim by which the RFU runs its affairs. Down at Twickenham, where the red wine and port is consumed slowly and with much praise, time runs more tardily.

You might say, given the RFU’s blustering denial of weekend reports that the job is Woodward’s when he wants it, that you pays your money and takes your choice. You either believe the reports or the RFU's denial. Personally, I’ll take the reports.

There has been too much blustering to my way of thinking to suggest anything other than someone has prematurely hit a nail on a very uncomfortable head. In other words, ‘Twickers’ wanted to conduct the whole drawn out saga on its own ponderous terms. Someone, and no names mentioned, has presumably talked to someone else and Twickenham’s master plan has been blown out of the water. Or so it would seem.

If the RFU subsequently talks to Woodward and then rejects his candidature, they have my genuine apologies. Obviously, I have misjudged them all along and they are one of the most forward-thinking, dynamic sporting organisations you could discover anywhere in the world, not just in the UK.

But I’d be surprised, very surprised. These are gentlemen who like to take life (and business) at their own measured pace. When you walk into some of the abodes they inhabit, you suspect that Carruthers over there in the corner still hasn’t been told that Singapore has fallen.

A dynamic business organisation living in the modern world would have readily applauded Woodward’s role in England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup win....and consigned it to history. They would have looked ahead, not backwards for a new man at the helm.

In life, in business and in sport, it is tomorrow that matters....not yesterday. But the RFU have, for too many years, lived in the past. There, amid the melancholy and sentimentality, they feel safer, somehow more comfortable. No draughts of cold air blasting in through a door opened at an untimely moment by some rank outsider. Here, in the snug bar, all is comfort and cosiness.

And, by the way, England are by no means the only national rugby union body to live under such terms.

But unfortunately, the modern world moves on at breakneck speed. It is challenging, tough, dynamic and often deadly. Constantly going back to the past is no panacea whatsoever for a bright, successful future.

If Twickenham was so convinced that Woodward was the answer to their prayers, why did they let him walk out of the door in the first place? But having done so, it strikes me as faintly ridiculous to bring him back after seven long years that, in terms of the pace at which this game is going forward, represents an eternity. After all, he hasn’t worked with anyone at any serious level in the sport in all that time.

What next? Will New Zealand bring back Laurie Mains or John Hart once Graham Henry has stepped down? Will South Africa re-recruit Nick Mallett, who had success as the Springboks coach years and years ago?

Manchester United don’t re-engage Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because they once scored a bucket load of goals for them. And Arsenal aren’t about to re-appoint George Graham as manager because they won a load of trophies under him.

In most sports, people move on but some rugby unions, in a strange way, are apparently unable to do this. They prefer to live in the past and keep going back to old friends.

A curious business.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album