Woodward in frame for Lions job

Click to follow

Clive Woodward, England's World Cup-winning coach, is set for new year talks which could result in him leading the 2005 British Lions tour to New Zealand.

Woodward today admitted that he has been approached by Bill Beaumont, chairman of the Four Home Unions, although he stressed he has not yet been offered the job.

"I've had a couple of phone calls from Billy Beaumont but that's about all it is so far," said Woodward.

"Billy asked me if I was interested in it and I said I would talk to him after I get back from holiday," added Woodward, who is bound for a family skiing trip to Verbier in Switzerland after England's match against the New Zealand Barbarians at Twickenham tomorrow.

Woodward's unparalleled success with England this year makes him the overwhelming favourite for the job, with Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan the only real alternative at the moment given the fact that Scotland's Ian McGeechan recently stepped aside and Wales coach Steve Hansen is returning home to New Zealand after next year's Six Nations championship.

One possible obstacle to the appointment could be Woodward's desire to take the core of his England backroom set-up with him.

He added: "I would not want to do it unless I was working with the majority of the people I work with here."

If Woodward is appointed it would result in him coming up against former Wales coach Graham Henry, who was today named to replace John Mitchell as the All Blacks coach, in two consecutive summers as England are due to play two Test matches in New Zealand in 2004.

Andy Robinson, Woodward's number two who was assistant to Henry on the 2001 Lions tour to Australia, where the British team lost the series 2-1, is looking forward to locking horns with the new Kiwi coach next summer.

"He is very analytical and really does study the game a lot. I'm looking forward to those games and think they will be great Test matches.

"But we have five games before that in the Six Nations and we will look to that challenge when it comes," said Robinson.

Both Woodward and Robinson sympathised with Mitchell, who lost out to Henry after being put in the position of re-applying for his own job following New Zealand's exit from the World Cup where they lost to Australia in the semi-finals.

Mitchell had previously worked with the England set-up and Woodward said: "It's tough on John who was building an excellent side.

"They are both outstanding coaches. They were picking from strength and, whoever they had chosen, they will move forward. They have some outstanding players and had just one disappointing match in the semi-final.

"John went into the World Cup as favourites with a fantastic team but then they lost, that's the game. "

Robinson added: "I agree with Woody. My heart goes out to John Mitchell because I think he was building a tremendous side and to lose one game against Australia when Australia were playing out of their skins was so disappointing for him."

Comments