Ruck and Maul: Gomarsall says RFU want Woodward back to oversee head coach Lancaster

 

The former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall has mixed singing with soothsaying on this Sport Relief weekend, predicting the return of Sir Clive Woodward to the Rugby Football Union after this summer's Olympic Games.

Gomarsall, who was among the brave "Big Hitters" of ex-internationals belting out (or "butchering" as Austin Healey put it) the JLS song 'Proud' for charity at the England v Ireland match and again on BBC TV on Friday night, told Radio 5 Live yesterday: "I think they'll stick with the man that they've got [Stuart Lancaster as head coach]. By luck, it fits with the way they want to have a management team in the future. I see Clive coming back after the Olympics and the only man that probably would accept that is Stuart Lancaster." Woodward told Ruck and Maul last year that he would be interested in an overseeing director's role. Ian Ritchie, the new RFU chief executive, told the media last month that the Professional Rugby Department headed by the often-criticised Rob Andrew is going through a review.

England trio in the dock

Unpleasant allegations have disturbed the sweetness and light of Lancaster's stint in recent days. Dylan Hartley, the England hooker, has a hearing on Tuesday into the charge he bit the finger of the Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris at Twickenham eight days ago. And Danny Care and Calum Clark – two of Lancaster's protégés when he coached at Leeds – are facing charges of alleged sexual assault and breaking an opponent's elbow respectively. Both Care and Clark were praised by Lancaster for their leadership qualities at the outset of his temporary tenure, and their names appeared among 63 England prospects (29 backs, 34 forwards) displayed under the title "The Future?" at the interim coach's Six Nations debrief with the media last Tuesday. There was no sign of Bath's rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond among the 13 back-three players but Saracens' code-crosser Joel Tomkins was included with six other centres. Harrow schoolboy Maro Itoje, 17, was the youngest to appear, alongside fellow blindsides Tom Wood, James Haskell and James Gaskell. And Danny Cipriani, who will play for Sale next season, was bracketed with George Ford, Rory Clegg, Henry Slade and Tom Heathcote as the fly-half understudies to Owen Farrell, Charlie Hodgson and Toby Flood. Cipriani appeared to injure a hamstring in scoring a first-half try, and went off during Melbourne Rebels' 30-29 win over Western Force on Friday that broke a 12-match losing streak.

Pumas schedule causing chaos

Slade, the 19-year-old Exeter Chief, is expected to cover next season for the absences of fly-half Ignacio Mieres with Argentina. The Pumas' entry to the new four-team Rugby Championship alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is causing headaches. Mieres and Exeter club-mate Gonzalo Camacho are likely to be absent from the beginning of August until mid-October, and then again for a month in the autumn for a European tour. "We didn't approach the idea of stopping either player from playing international rugby," Rob Baxter, the Exeter head coach, told Ruck and Maul. "The thing everyone appreciates about these players is it means a lot to them to play for their country. That desire to do well is why you're attracted to them. We want players who are ambitious." No such luck for Leicester wing Horacio Agulla who has been shown the door by the Tigers, although they will hang on to Marcos Ayerza because, to quote director of rugby Richard Cockerill, "world-class props are hard to come across". Baxter admits the situation is fluid. "This is going to be Argentina's toughest ever schedule of games," he said. "We'll see what state they come back in and look at it over as year or so and assess it."

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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