Ruck and Maul: Andrew the key figure as Johnson debacle enters overtime


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The Independent Online

The decision on whether to fire or re-hire Martin Johnson as England team manager could take at least another fortnight, assuming Johnson does not resign, but there is no doubting the identity of the kingmaker.

An agreement between the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership clubs (PRL) requires the RFU's elite rugby director – still Rob Andrew, despite his change in job title this year to operations director – to put together and consult with an England coaching selection panel including two club representatives. But the ultimate decision is Andrew's. PRL say the process "cannot begin properly until the information provided to the Professional Game Board (PGB) on 17 November has been reviewed". But Andrew is also on the five-man PGB panel reviewing England's performance since they won the Six Nations in March.

A world in union

In Auckland a fortnight ago Ruck and Maul bumped into Jodie Burton and Tom Hudson, just about recovered from their 30,000km bike ride from London, visiting many a rugby club and union along the way. The pair are moving to Melbourne but their mission for the sport that inspired their journey endures. Tom said: "Working with the Tag Rugby Development Trust, we set out to remind anyone who will listen that cultures, religions and the odd testicular delicacy aside, we really aren't all that different. We want clubs and individuals to engage in our "sister-brother" rugby scheme, uniting western clubs with poorer counterparts worldwide.''

Rwanda gets in on the act

Global expansion comes in many forms. The Rwandan referee Gerald Nsengiyumva made an exchange visit to Scotland last week, serving as a touchline official for the Edinburgh v Leinster match. Nsengiyumva played club rugby in Uganda before pioneering the game in Rwanda, to the extent the war-ravaged country now has 10 teams and has been invited to tournaments in Hong Kong and Dubai. "We started our rugby with a few boys, most of them were orphans or homeless kids," Nsengiyumva said. "When we meet as a team we do not look at ourselves as Hutu or Tutsi. We look at ourselves as brothers and we regard rugby as one big, happy family. It has helped a lot with people reconciling."

The boys from Brazil

Rugby is on the rise too in Brazil, where ESPN screened the World Cup live to around 700,000 in the country that will host the Olympic Games Sevens in 2016. "There are 10 clubs here," reporter Rouget Maia told Ruck and Maul, "and we receive emails from all sorts of people. There's a 62-year-old lady in Ubêrlandia who lives miles from any club but says she loves the players and the all-out action." Brazil entered the Middlesex Sevens in July, losing in the semi-finals, and joined rugby's first appearance at the Pan American Games, in Mexico last weekend.