Reddin sacking adds to state of chaos at Twickenham

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The Independent Online

The general feeling of disintegration enveloping English rugby - Twickenham grows a little more like Gormenghast every week, even though it has just been rebuilt - was reinforced once again yesterday when Dave Reddin, the ground-breaking conditioning specialist who made the red-rose army the best prepared team in the international game and played a significant role in the capture of the World Cup in 2003, lost his job.

The news will have been greeted with something approaching horror by those who worked most closely with the 37-year-old head of fitness and nutrition.

Reddin was made redundant with immediate effect by his employers at the Rugby Football Union, eight days after Andy Robinson was railroaded into resigning as head coach in the wake of the dismal series of autumn Tests, during which England were beaten by New Zealand, South Africa and, most woundingly, Argentina. His departure severs the most important remaining link with the World Cup-winning staff. The medical team remains largely intact, but the vast majority of the back-room specialists have now gone.

There was no attempt by the union to justify its move, which came as a far greater surprise than the decision to shove Robinson towards the exit door. Rob Andrew, the elite director of rugby with responsibilities across the spectrum of top-end disciplines, merely paid tribute to Reddin's outstanding work over eight eventful years.

"Dave made a huge impact in developing a world-class fitness programme to support the senior side," Andrew said. "His work ensured England arrived at the 2003 World Cup in peak condition and he was a major reason behind the team's success at that tournament. He goes with our thanks and best wishes for the future and I'm sure he will continue to make a major contribution to elite sport in this country."

The RFU added that Calvin Morris, the national fitness coach, would take on Reddin's duties with the England team.

For his part, Reddin did not sound best pleased. "Although the RFU have explained the rationale for their decision to make my role redundant, I am disappointed to be leaving," he admitted. "It has been a great privilege to have been involved with England over the past eight years and almost 100 Test matches."

Along with other conditioning professionals, Reddin had been concerned for some time that the relentless demands of the English season, during which the leading players are denied sufficient rest both during the campaign and in the summer, would inevitably undermine the national team's chances of repeating their 2003 success. Whether his concerns on this score led to his abrupt departure has yet to be made clear, but it appears unlikely, given that the RFU would wholeheartedly agree with him on this score. His redundancy may simply be a result of the union's need to cut costs after a period of considerable expenditure on the Twickenham stadium - spending that has coincided with a drop-off in the commercial value of a losing England side.

Reddin would certainly sympathise with the likes of Martin Corry, George Chuter and Lewis Moody, three members of the Leicester forward pack who must pitch up in the Lyonnais tonight for a Heineken Cup pool match of considerable significance. Only when hostilities commence against Bourgoin will the England trio know whether they have recovered from the physical and emotional damage suffered during a traumatic series of autumn internationals, or whether they are still lost in the mists of sporting depression.

* Newcastle restore England centre Jamie Noon to their midfield for the European Challenge Cup pool game against French hosts Montauban tonight, with captain Matt Burke also back after missing last weekend's EDF Energy Cup win over Harlequins. John Fletcher, the Falcons rugby director, said: "If we lose we face an extremely difficult task getting into the last eight."

* Gloucester prop Christian Califano has agreed a one-year extension to his contract. The 34-year-old former France international joined the club on a deal in the summer which gave both parties the option of terminating at the end of the season.