RFU steps up efforts to snare Woodward for influential role at Twickenham

The Rugby Football Union will this week accelerate its move to reinstall Sir Clive Woodward, coach of the 2003 World Cup-winning team, at the top of the English game, despite considerable resistance from members of the governing body's ruling council. Many Twickenham backwoodsmen resent Woodward for the outspoken manner of his departure from the union in 2004, regard him as "uncontrollable", and fail to see how he can work alongside Rob Andrew, who beat him to a high-profile RFU position a little under five years ago and recently accepted the newly-created job of director of rugby operations. There is little love lost between the two men.

However, a small number of extremely powerful RFU figures are determined to return Woodward to a position of maximum influence – the freshly constituted performance directorship – in an effort to maximise England's chances of securing another world title on home soil in 2015. Martyn Thomas, the long-serving RFU chairman has played a long game in bringing his man back to Twickenham. That game appears to be nearing its conclusion.

For most of this year, Woodward has been the hottest of favourites to land the performance director's role established as a result of chief executive John Steele's restructuring work. The moment the position was created, he made one thing abundantly clear, albeit in private: that while he wanted the job, he would not apply for it – partly because details of any such application would inevitably be leaked and leave him in an awkward position with the British Olympic Association, his current employers. Hence the union's move to head-hunt him.

Other candidates have been linked with the job, often erroneously. Eddie Jones, the Australian who coached the Wallabies to the 2003 final, said recently: "It's interesting to read that I'm on an RFU shortlist, because I really don't remember posting my application." But it has been clear from the start that Woodward is the preferred candidate amongst the RFU's principal movers and shakers. "If it was left to the council, there'd be no chance of this happening," said one Twickenham insider close to the process. "But we need to move this thing forward and get it done."

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