RFU management changes approved

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The Independent Online

Rugby Football Union chief executive John Steele has been given the go-ahead to make significant changes to the organisation's senior management structure.

Steele launched a comprehensive review of the RFU when he took over at Twickenham four months ago and today presented his findings to the board of directors at a meeting in Birmingham.

The former UK Sport boss set out to strengthen the RFU in preparation for hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup and his recommendations were unanimously approved.

The RFU will not confirm any details of the changes until tomorrow afternoon, giving Steele a chance to speak to staff directly.

Rob Andrew's position as England's elite rugby director is one of those to have come under the microscope. Andrew is not expected to leave the RFU but it is likely his role will be redefined.

Steele's plan is understood to include the creation of a performance director post within the elite department, although the exact details of that position remained under wraps tonight.

"I am delighted that the board unanimously accepted my recommendations for change," Steele said

"We have a hugely exciting five years ahead of us and I want to make sure we are in the best possible shape to the seize the opportunity a home World Cup gives us to grow and develop the game from the grassroots to the elite level.

"The changes we agreed will deliver a simpler management structure with clearer leadership and are changes that are right for rugby and right for the RFU.

"We will announce these in more detail tomorrow but until then our first priority is to talk staff through the recommendations and the next steps."

Sir Clive Woodward, England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach, has been linked with a return to the RFU as part of the shake-up.

Woodward is currently employed as elite performance director at the British Olympic Association.

The recommendations have not impacted on Martin Johnson and the England coaching team, who will remain in place as previously stated until at least the World Cup later this year.

But there has been speculation the new structure could see Johnson reporting directly to Steele, the former Northampton fly-half and coach.

Those changes would fit with Steele's plan to streamline the management structure and place rugby back at the heart of the RFU's remit.

Steele's predecessor Francis Baron transformed the union's finances but the focus of Steele's tenure is maximise the benefits of hosting the 2015 World Cup to develop rugby in England.

A successful England team is central to that.

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio tonight backed Steele's plans to shake up the RFU's executive structure to give England the best chance of success on home soil in 2015.

"It is important that we strive to improve all the time on and off the field. England at this moment in time have a very successful structure from the bottom up but not from the top down," Dallaglio said.

"With the Rugby World Cup in 2015 (in England), clearly the onus is now going to shift back towards the top end of the game and the team.

"We live in a business of high performance and in sport, whether you are on or off the field, it is a results-driven business and it is a game that constantly reviews itself and looks for ways to improve," Dallaglio said.

"That can sometimes mean changing people.

"I am sure John has come in with a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh pair of ears, he is a rugby man who has played the game and administered the game as well as being an administrator with UK Sport so he does understand the game."

Woodward applied for the elite rugby director position in 2006 and lost out to Andrew so Dallaglio was not surprised to hear his name linked with the RFU again.

"As I understand it, Clive was in the frame when Rob Andrew was appointed in the first place so naturally if positions are reviewed then his name comes back into the frame," Dallaglio said.

"Clive has not been out of coaching and is still very much involved so I think his skills are perfectly transferable to rugby.

"Once rugby is in your blood is in your blood, it takes a lot to get it out of your blood.

"As far as I am aware, Clive has a role which he is committed to seeing out."