RFU keen for Woodward to return, but on a full-time basis

Martyn Thomas, the Rugby Football Union management board chairman whose role in the trouserless farce currently being played out at Twickenham is likely to come under serious scrutiny over the next few weeks, yesterday ruled out any prospect of Sir Clive Woodward returning to the fold on a part-time basis, splitting his hours between oval-ball affairs and the broad spectrum of sports he oversees in his current role with the British Olympic Association.

"I don't believe we can have a part-timer doing the job, even if he were to come on board full-time at a later stage," Thomas said in a radio interview. "We need a man who is 100 per cent committed and we need to get on with it. We've lost a lot of time." Asked by one of Woodward's principal media cheerleaders whether he would make a move for the 2003 World Cup-winning coach were he to make himself available immediately, the chairman was equally categorical. "If that were the case, Clive and I would need to speak," he replied. "He knows my phone number. I have huge respect for the man." And so the ball recrosses the net and lands, once again, in the court of the knight of the realm.

Woodward has always been interested in taking on the role of performance director – a job created in January by John Steele, the RFU chief executive sacked by Thomas and his management board colleagues on Thursday night – even if, for reasons of his own, he has declined to make a formal application. However, Steele's botched handling of the process, not least his fateful decision to downgrade the job description by removing the England senior team from its remit, persuaded Woodward to make a renewed public commitment to the BOA, through to next year's London Games. Last Friday night, he indicated that there was "no change at all" in his position, despite Steele's dismissal.

The chairman has played a long game in attempting to lure Woodward back to Twickenham and, having seen off two chief executives during the course of it, Francis Baron being the first, he is in no mood to give up just yet. Indeed, Thomas is now his own chief executive, if only on an interim basis – a fact that speaks volumes for the survival instincts of a man who was under severe threat of facing a no-confidence motion from the RFU council in the hours following Steele's departure.

But Thomas and the other 11 remaining members of the 13-man management board are not yet out of the thicket. They will be subjected to the rigours of an independent inquiry into the pratfalls and half-witteries of recent months, and even if the top brass survive its findings, they will still be faced with the thorny problem of the vacant performance directorship. It beggars belief but, even now, no one quite knows what the title is supposed to mean. Indeed, Rob Andrew – the man who effectively did the job as director of elite rugby until Steele declared the role redundant – has been asked to participate in a review of the matter. Andrew is not the biggest wisecracker on earth, but he recognises a beautiful irony when he sees it.

According to Thomas, no appointment will be made until after the World Cup in New Zealand, which ends in October. A new chief executive is likely to be hired more quickly and there are already some names in the frame, among them two former Harlequins in Simon Halliday and Malcolm Wall. Halliday, who played on the England wing in the 1991 World Cup final, is currently involved at Esher, while Wall shouldered the burden of the Quins chairmanship after the fake-blood scandal of 2009 and has held senior posts in international media organisations.

While Thomas was making it blindingly obvious that he still had Woodward at the top of his list of potential recruits for the PD role, he was asked how Martin Johnson, the England manager, might react. "I've spoken to Martin and he's very clear: he'll do what is in the best interests of England," the chairman said. It was an interesting response – one that fell some way short of suggesting that the great second-row forward and captain from Leicester was somersaulting with joy at the prospect.

Thomas emphasised the need for a high-powered performance director by noting that England were "sixth" in the world rankings, adding that this was not good enough. It was hardly a ringing endorsement of Johnson, whose appointment the chairman himself engineered in deeply controversial fashion after the 2008 Six Nations Championship, at the expense of Brian Ashton.

In fact, England are fifth in the rankings. How unusual for the RFU not to know where the hell it is.

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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor