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."

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map