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Woodward fears for England under 'flawed' RFU

Updated: November 20, 2011, 07:52


LONDON(AP) Clive Woodward fears England is heading toward "another potential shambles'' because the Rugby Football Union remains without a visionary as it seeks a new coach to replace Martin Johnson.

Woodward, who coached England to the World Cup title in 2003, said the RFU has reduced English rugby to a "laughing stock'' and is in no position to coordinate the search for a successor for Johnson because there is currently no chief executive in place.

"In sporting terms, it is now life-and-death time for English rugby,'' Woodward wrote in his column in The Sunday Times newspaper. "But I also have the sinking feeling that when the RFU reaches the end of a totally flawed process and announces the new England coach as successor to Johnson, when the chosen one is anointed, people will turn to each and say, 'You must be joking.'

"There is a real danger of the wrong man being appointed at this vital time in the development of our rugby.''

Johnson stepped down on Wednesday, six weeks before his contract was due to expire, following England's disappointing World Cup in New Zealand where the team was eliminated by France in the quarterfinals - its worst performance in the tournament since 1999.

With no permanent chief executive, coach or even national-team captain following the retirement of Lewis Moody after the World Cup, there is a worrying lack of leadership throughout English rugby.

"What about the morgue that is currently Twickenham what is the vision for that?'' said Woodward, who is not expected to be in the running to replace Johnson as he is currently the director of sport for the British Olympic Association.

"There is nobody who understands elite performance and rugby at the very top,'' he added. "Equally disturbing, the same people are going to appoint the next coach.''

Northampton coach Jim Mallinder and ex-Australia coach Eddie Jones are believed to be the leading contenders to take over from Johnson, with former Italy and South Africa coach Nick Mallett ruling himself out of contention this week.

Another potential candidate, Graham Henry, who recently stood down as New Zealand coach after winning the World Cup, has indicated he would prefer a part-time consultancy role with a club.

Woodward, who said he would like an Englishman to land the job, believes the appointment of Johnson - who had no coaching experience prior to taking charge - was always doomed to failure.

"Test rugby is a brutal environment and not one for somebody who has never coached before,'' Woodward said of the man who captained England to the world title eight years ago.

"I am happy to repeat that we had a conversation in 2008 about whether he should take the job when he was first offered it. I told him that he would be mad to do so ... He has the qualities to be an outstanding coach, just as good as he was as a player and captain, but even he cannot learn this job at the very top level on the hoof.''

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