England World Cup review: former players question composition of panel

The 2003 World Cup winners Will Greenwood and Lawrence Dallaglio have questioned the absence of Sir Clive Woodward from the Rugby Football Union’s five-man panel to review England’s World Cup failure, which includes two individuals who approved the appointment of Stuart Lancaster as coach three years ago.

Sir Ian McGeechan and the RFU chief executive, Ian Ritchie, both ratified the permanent appointment of Lancaster in 2012 and were on Monday named on the new panel to rule on his fate along with the former lock Ben Kay, the professional game board chairman, Ian Metcalfe, and the former Football Association chief executive Ian Watmore. There is no place for Rob Andrew, although it is understood his role as the RFU’s professional rugby director is not under threat.

Ritchie, who refused to take questions on the review before the composition of the RFU panel was announced a few hours later, said there would be extensive input from players and coaches and that the findings would be confidential. The contents of England’s 2011 World Cup review were the subject of a damaging leak.

Greenwood, who won the World Cup in 2003 under Woodward, believes the former England and British & Irish Lions coach could provide valuable insight but praised the inclusion of Kay. He said: “The argument is keep your friends close, your enemies closer. Now Clive is not an enemy but he’s a ghost. He’s a giant spectre that gets thrown into the pot the whole time.

“Clive is the elephant in the room. I’d have him there all day long. From the outside what you see is samey samey. Same group making potentially the same mistakes. If you’re asking for people to have a white board and you want a dynamic group of people to come in and go ‘right what’s wrong, what can we do’, Woodward should be in the room. Clive is the elephant in the room.”

Dallaglio, who with Greenwood was speaking at a Beyond Sport event, said that, if Woodward was not under consideration for the England head coach job, he should be involved in the decision-making process.

“Clive is English, has had the job before and has won the World Cup, so surely he must be qualified on how things should be taken forward,” said Dallaglio. “But we’ll continue to ignore the one person who has actually delivered in this competition. I despair of that a little bit.”

Ritchie said in a statement: “While the RFU will be focusing on continuing to deliver a fantastic tournament over the next two weeks, it is hugely disappointing not to have progressed through to the knockout stages. With that in mind, we have begun to review the senior team’s campaign to ensure that we learn and improve from this experience in order to be consistently successful.”

Premiership Rugby will play an important role in the review, with the organisation’s chief executive, Mark McCafferty, denying that the domestic game is a negative influence on the national team. McCafferty insisted that current structures at club level provide a sufficient pathway for English players to thrive, despite comments from the New Zealand coach, Steve Hansen, that private club owners in England and France do not help the respective national teams.

“They’ve got private investment in New Zealand so I’m not sure that’s the conclusion you can draw, they approach it in a different way,” said McCafferty. “I’ve always been very clear in my views, I understand the history of why certain countries and certain unions are in a particular place but, if you look at the expansion of the sport, I think the case is pretty clear that you need to attract investment.

“As far as England is concerned – I’m not worried about what Steve Hansen said about France – there are 75% of players playing each weekend who are English qualifying. That’s gone up and it gives a pool of players to every English coach which is pretty unrivalled around the world. We’ve just got to find the clues and things to unlock the elite level of performance within that.

“So despite Steve Hansen’s comments, I think those were a bit misjudged . I think it is just more about the top end, how you translate all of that structure and scale that we have in England into elite outcomes.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by James Riach, for The Guardian on Monday 19th October 2015 22.01 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010