Robinson set to survive inquest into England flop

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union will decide next month how it should react to the Six Nations misfire that has left the England team at the mercy of every half-baked shake-up theory under the sun. But Francis Baron, the chief executive, has already made up most of his mind on the subject of Andy Robinson, the head coach.

"Andy has a contract taking him through to next year's World Cup and I have every intention of ensuring he honours it," he said yesterday, 48 hours after beginning his inquest by meeting Robinson at a country hotel in Wiltshire.

What Baron declined to say was whether the coach would retain full control of team selection, or whether a manager might be appointed to offer a second voice on the most important matters affecting the shop-soiled world champions. "Everything is up for review," the chief executive commented.

Meanwhile, senior RFU figures have privately poured an ocean's worth of cold water on the notion that Sir Clive Woodward, the manager-cum-coach at the head of England's successful World Cup campaign three years ago, might forsake his flirtation with football at Southampton and return to an as yet unspecified senior position at Twickenham in the near future.

Woodward made more than a few enemies in high places when he walked out of his England job with all guns blazing 18 months ago and has not been forgiven by many of those who took offence at his parting words.

It is clear Robinson will be forced to freshen his coaching team before this summer's two-Test tour of Australia - a trip that has taken on a considerable degree of added importance as a result of his team's three successive Six Nations defeats.

Some Twickenhamites want England to approach Brian Ashton, by common consent the outstanding attacking strategist in European rugby, to play a leading role in the World Cup build-up, but he is in the first three months of a long-term contract at Bath having quit the managership of the national academy late last year. England might easily have snapped him up then, but missed the boat. If they want him now, it will cost the RFU a small fortune in compensation.

Meanwhile, the administrators of the Heineken Cup have decreed that Toulouse, the holders, will have a home semi-final, rather than one at a neutral venue as anticipated, if they beat Leinster in a last-eight tie on Saturday week. As if they needed help...

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