Woodward scents role in RFU shake-up

It is four years since Rob Andrew beat Sir Clive Woodward to Twickenham's top rugby job in a contest so muddied by political manoeuvring that it would have been no surprise to discover Peter Mandelson, the Prince of Darkness himself, at the heart of the process. Now, there is at least an outside chance of Woodward returning to the scene of his greatest sporting triumph, effectively at Andrew's expense. What goes around comes around.

As a result of a radical restructuring of the Rugby Football Union's management structure by the new chief executive John Steele, the governing body will over the next few days advertise for a performance director who will have a direct influence on, and control over, the running of the senior England team, as well as the second-tier, age-group and sevens squads. Andrew's current role as director of elite rugby will end the moment an appointment is made.

The RFU expects applications from a number of big hitters rich in international experience – Eddie Jones, the former Wallaby coach, threw his hat in the ring even before the details of Steele's reorganisation were known – but as Andrew has been invited, rather pointedly, to apply for a different job entirely, he will not be a candidate for the position carrying the highest profile. The former England outside-half will spend the next few days deciding whether to chase the new broad-brush role of operations director.

Woodward's position is as fascinating as it is sensitive. It is not as if he is kicking his heels at the moment: as deputy chef de mission of Team GB, he is up to his neck in the business of working towards next year's London Olympics. But he still cares deeply about English rugby and continues to give occasional voice to his frustration at what he considers the wasted legacy of the World Cup triumph he engineered so brilliantly in 2003. There is a part of him that craves a return to his first sporting love, and a return to Twickenham in a powerful position such as the one framed by Steele would right the wrongs of his failed candidacy in 2006.

If the governing body is keen on an Englishman taking on the performance director's job – and the RFU is not exactly a hotbed of internationalism, despite the presence of the Australian coach Brian Smith among the current back-room staff and sundry New Zealanders and South Africans in the Test team – there are very few figures of Woodward's stature on the shopping list. Indeed, it might be argued that there are no serious alternatives at all.

Whatever happens on this front over the next nine months – the amount of time Steele is willing to devote to the recruitment process – the top end of the RFU executive branch will soon look very different. Steele is streamlining the rugby operation: there will be a third director, this one in charge of "development", working alongside the performance and operations specialists. In addition, the union will appoint new commercial and financial officers. A number of senior staff have already left Twickenham, and many believe Andrew will join them sooner rather than later. Yesterday, he was giving little away. "Change is never easy," he said, "but there are some exciting opportunities and challenges ahead. I will be considering the role of rugby operations director in the coming weeks."

Steele described his new tripartite director structure as "hugely important to the future of the game", adding: "This is about looking forward and not back and ensuring we have the best people in place... as we prepare for a home World Cup in 2015."


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

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'