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Woodward slams RFU: 'How can a fan pick the England rugby coach?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ex-England coach Clive Woodward has become the latest person to question the ability of RFU CEO Bill Sweeney to recruit Eddie Jones’ successor. Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton, the Rugby Pod co-hosts, have led the charge this week with their criticism of Sweeney, the pair outlining their fears that Steve Borthwick will be appointed as head coach in 2023 rather than England going all out and recruiting someone like Shaun Edwards. 

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Now, Woodward has joined the chorus of concern regarding Sweeney’s capability as the RFU boss tasked with head coach recruitment. The 2003 World Cup-winning coach has made an appearance on the latest episode of the Lawrence Dallaglio rugby podcast in which he has taken a swipe at administrators whose knowledge of the sport is too small for them to make the best-informed decisions. 

Ex-England No8 Dallaglio was – like Woodward – a regular critic of the way Jones ran his team during the recent Guinness Six Nations and now the pair have teamed up on a podcast to take matters a step further by outlining their anxiety about the recruitment process to find the Australian’s successor as he is due to step down following the 2023 World Cup in France.  

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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots
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Chris Ashton | Rugby Roots

“I don’t blame Eddie or Stuart Lancaster. It’s the people who put them in there, the actual recruitment process. All those coaches, from Andy Robinson, a good friend of mine, Brian Ashton, Martin Johnson, Lancaster. Fundamentally, that recruitment is done by the chief executive,” said Woodward, warming on the show to the theme of next man in at England.

“The two main figures in those years are Ian Ritchie and Bill Sweeney, both really good guys. My issue with them is that they are business people. There’s nothing wrong with being a business person, but their knowledge of rugby is really small.

“They are suddenly responsible for employing the England coach. My advice to both of them, and I have had this conversation with them – as you can imagine, it didn’t go too well – if I was CEO of the RFU, I would employ a director of rugby, who would take all this responsibility off me. A director of rugby who is qualified to talk about the England coaching position, how you go about selecting it and also to recommend to me and the board who that should be.

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“Neither Bill Sweeney nor Ian Ritchie had the skill-set to make the right decision on who should be England head coach. You can have all the advice you want but unless you are surrounded by people with the right skill-set, the chances are you will make the wrong decisions.

“I would like a director of rugby to be totally responsible if the CEO doesn’t have the skills. With these CEO roles, it’s almost like having a fan in charge. How can a fan pick the England rugby coach? I just think that is wrong.”

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