Woodward delivers stinging attack on English rugby

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Sir Clive Woodward launched a stinging attack on English rugby union today saying he was "losing control" the moment he stepped off the plane after winning the 2003 World Cup.

Sir Clive Woodward launched a stinging attack on English rugby union today saying he was "losing control" the moment he stepped off the plane after winning the 2003 World Cup.

A day after quitting, Woodward told a news conference he was disappointed at the apathy that developed after the World Cup triumph in Australia and he was staggered to see players of the caliber of Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio retiring because of too many playing demands.

Woodward said, however, he intended to lead the British Lions to New Zealand next year and would not be looking for any other jobs - including in soccer - until after that tour had been completed.

"It was fantastic to win (the World Cup) but it was clear to me from the moment that plane landed I felt totally out of control," Woodward told a news conference at Twickenham.

"My mind-set was we had a clear plan of how we were being successful and that has been watered down. I went into the same meetings with the same face and heard the same things. I wanted more and we have ended up with less."

Woodward, who also led England to the Six Nations Grand Slam months before the World Cup triumph, said he would like to have carried on a position he had held for seven years. Although he has plans to become a soccer coach and has been linked with Southampton, he had been prepared to stay on another year with the England team.

But he felt the structure he had built around the England team was being weakened by clubs taking players away or giving him less time to prepare them for matches.

"Some people would say 'There goes Woody, whinging again'. I cannot compromise," Woodward said. "Winning is about inches. Look at the Olympics, the rowers, the sprinters, Kelly Holmes. She won by inches.

"We won the World Cup by inches. You cannot compromise. We won the World Cup because we had an outstanding set of players.

"We prepared properly. But agreements have taken place between the RFU and clubs that on paper look great. They're not in reality," Woodward said. "I have had these discussions for so long. If I am in a minority of one it doesn't mean to say I am wrong."

Woodward, who said he would support his long assistant Andy Robinson to be his successor, said he had no real option but to resign.

"When you get into that frame of mind you have to shake hands and agree to disagree," Woodward said.

"It needs a new person to come in and work within the system who believes in the system. I was not prepared to take any compromises any more."

Woodward said he was dismayed to hear Dallaglio's announcement on Tuesday that he was retiring from international rugby although he planned to carry on playing for his club, Wasps.

"Where I do stamp my foot a bit is when I see Dallaglio retire," Woodward said. "I don't hear people saying 'why has he retired?' That is where I start to get annoyed.

"You make your point and people aren't listening. Players today are playing too many games. Martin Johnson just could not keep going, it was just too much.

"This is why the team has broken up so quickly. It all caught up with them, their family lives and their bodies," Woodward said after Jason Leonard, Neil Back, Kyran Bracken and Dorian West of the World Cup squad also retired.

"Dallaglio has done everything right but he felt he had to stand down. I am very sad about that."

Woodward said he had become frustrated trying to get clubs to release players for training rather than tire them in competition.

"If your mind is not on it and you are fighting battles with everybody it's time for someone else to take it up," Woodward said.

"I believe this is the biggest job in world rugby, bigger than the All Blacks. In most sports you have a level playing field but I don't think England have one in the way the other countries do.

"When you see your top players dropping out because they are absolutely run-down you have to say 'enough's enough'," Woodward said.

"These are young men who are not at their best and, to be an elite performer, you have to control the athlete all the time. The England head coach has to have more control of his players.

"Control of the players is everything and you can't control them through directors of rugby. It's like trying to run a business without a workforce."

RFU chief executive Francis Baron said that Robinson would take short term charge of the team for the games against Canada, South Africa and Australia in November and was a strong candidate to replace Woodward.

"Clearly Andy Robinson is in a very strong position," Baron said. "He is a strong candidate for the post."