Woodward's Easter rebellion

London Irish 25 Bedford 13
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Clive Woodward, the non-conformist coach who has worked the oracle with London Irish, chose the Irish rising of Easter Saturday to announce that he would leave the club unless he receives greater co-operation from the national selectors.

"If some of my players are going to be bullied by the people in Dublin, I don't see the point of coaching a First Division club in England," Woodward said. "Things have got to be sorted out with the Irish management before I commit to staying at Sunbury. My players have to be available for the league and they have to be 100 per cent committed to the club. In two years I haven't had a literate conversation with anyone in Ireland."

Woodward said he had a phone call from Pat Whelan, the Ireland manager, last November asking for three Exiles players to attend training prior to the Ireland-Fiji match. Had it been a transfer charge call it could hardly have got more up Woodward's nose. "It was all a last minute thing and I'm not going to take that crap any more. It was a total nonsense.

"I want my players to play for Ireland but I don't want them taken for granted and I don't want guns held to our heads. Ireland has got to understand what is happening over here and not abuse their position. We have received no support from Dublin and the fact that we have been successful is probably massively embarrassing to them.

"I want a clear understanding of what is going to happen next season. We have no chance of being successful in the First Division on the basis of what has happened in the Second and I am not going into the First Division with no chance. I'm not here to be stuffed around by the system."

Only Woodward, who tends to speak as he used to play, i.e. flying off at unimaginable tangents, could make a policy statement on the day London Irish sealed promotion. With two games remaining it is mathematically possible for London Scottish to go up with Northampton but only if the Irish lose and the Scots score hundreds of points. Earlier in the week, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced a financial incentive to keep the leading players in Ireland and on this issue, at least, the mercurial Woodward found accord with Dublin.

"What they've done is brilliant and they should have done it a long time ago," Woodward said. "The last thing I want is a team of Irish internationals. I don't believe in signing players who have already made it. I'm not trying to get those guys anyway. I want to bring on young players and you don't have to be Irish to play here.

"Contracts are meaningless. They don't mean that a man's going to play well or put his head on the line. You don't need a contract. Shaking hands will do."

Woodward has eschewed a personal contract which means he can leave the club at any time. In addition to running his own business, he is in charge of the England Under-21 side and it would be no surprise if Leicester made a move for him. "He wants to be top dog and I want London Irish and indeed Ireland to benefit from his drive and passion," Duncan Leopold, the club chairman, said. "We recognise his talent and we will do whatever is necessary to keep him."

The Exiles, brilliant the week before at Wakefield, were flat against Bedford who created enough chances to have won. At times Bedford, who have found a promising young coach of their own in Richard Greed, outplayed the Irish at the running game and annihilated them in the back row. "Everything was wrong. Our minds weren't on it but we got away with it," Woodward said. "It was a very quiet changing-room."

Given the chaotic state of rugby in England, the only thing that was as clear as Waterford crystal on Saturday is that the Exiles will go up and they will have to find an extra pounds 1m to finance their elevated status.

Gabriel Fulcher, the international lock who recently joined London Irish, has yet to play for the first XV. "Woodward's quite right," Fulcher said. "You don't want a big shot coming in and ruining the club spirit."

London Irish: Tries Halpin, Humphreys, Bishop, Briers; Conversion Corcoran; Penalty Corcoran. Bedford: Try Chandler; Conversion: Smith; Penalties Smith 2.

London Irish: C O'Shea; M Corcoran, P Flood, R Henderson, J Bishop; D Humphreys (O Cobbe, 78) N Briers; L Mooney, R Kellam, G Halpin (capt), C Hall, A Meadows, A Dougan, B Walsh, C Bird.

Bedford: M Cook; J Chandler, P Allen, M Oliver, G Witheat; S Smith, R Stone (B Hyde, 58); P Garrett, M Sharp, L Mansell, M Upex, R Thompson, M Deans, P Alston (capt), P Kemble.

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).

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