Brian Ashton need not despair completely as he ponders his next career move: there is life after the Rugby Football Union, for all its diabolical ability to hang people out to dry without having the guts to tell them why, and things can change for the better in the time it takes Danny Cipriani to slice through an opposition midfield. Ashton's predecessor as England head coach and RFU victim, Andy Robinson, has been drafted into the Scotland back-room team for the forthcoming trip to Argentina a mere six months after moving north to take charge of Edinburgh.
Together with the former international centre Sean Lineen, who currently runs Glasgow, the two-time Lions forwards coach will work alongside Frank Hadden when the Scots take on the Pumas in Buenos Aires and Rosario in June. Hadden's assistants during this year's troublesome Six Nations Championship, George Graham and Alan Tait, have been dropped. "Discussions are underway... in respect of identifying other suitable roles for them," said a spokesman for the Scottish Rugby Union. Ashton will certainly know how they feel.
Robinson has made considerable progress with Edinburgh, guiding them to the upper reaches of the Magners League and inspiring them to some striking victories in the Heineken Cup. There is no firm indication that he will be asked to split his time between club and country next season, but if things go well in South America, there will be a strong case to keep him on board for the autumn internationals at Murrayfield in November.
Talking of the Argentinians, poor old Marcelo Loffreda is having a terrible time of it at Leicester. Loffreda moved to Welford Road after a triumphant World Cup, in which the Pumas beat France, the hosts, at the start and end of the tournament to finish third – an unprecedented achievement for a member of rugby's economic underclass. At the time, the board of the reigning Premiership champions lauded him as a great tactician who would take the club into new territory. Now, they are reduced to firefighting reports that he is about to be sacked.
"No, the reports are wrong," said Peter Wheeler, the chief executive, ahead of tomorrow's board meeting, where the powers that be will discuss the capitulation to the Ospreys in the EDF Energy Cup final at Twickenham 10 days ago. "There has been no discussion on Marcelo's position. World Cup years are always difficult because you are without a significant number of players and then have to reintegrate them before they disappear for the Six Nations. We realise the problems people face, especially when they come into a job halfway through a season."
Loffreda will not be wholly reassured by this: when he ponders the way Ashton was treated by the RFU, he will not put anything past anyone in the English game. He still has every chance of taking Leicester into a Premiership play-off place, but as there have been rumours in Dublin for some time linking Eddie O'Sullivan, the deposed Ireland coach, with a move to the Midlands, he can consider himself up against it.
Jonny Wilkinson, who lost his place as England's outside-half ahead of the Six Nations match with Ireland last month and then suffered another of his debilitating bouts of injury trouble in the shoulder-neck region, will miss his country's two-Test visit to New Zealand this summer. Wilkinson, who requires surgery to repair a cartilage tear, will continue playing for Newcastle until he goes under the knife. Martin Johnson, the new national team manager, intends to announce a 32-strong squad for the All Black trek on 13 May.Reuse content