Woodward the man for RFU job
John Taylor
January 12, 2011

Some RFU employees are breathing a little easier this week, others are still holding their breath after the new chief executive, John Steele, received total backing for his restructuring plans.

He wasted no time at all in getting rid of what he perceived as the dead wood. People many considered fixtures in the corridors of Twickenham - guys such as Terry Burwell, Nick Bunting and Richard Prescott - were escorted from the premises. They were not even given time to clear their desks and collect personal possessions - this was a show of ruthlessness that was clearly designed to put everybody on their mettle.

There seems to be two schools of thought among those who survived the cull. Some believe that is it - the major surgery is complete and the rest will be a case of reorganising.

Others are not so sure. "When you are in a senior position and you are asked to reapply for your own job it is the death knell," said one highly placed insider. "If the excuse is restructuring and your job description changes that only makes it more obvious you are perceived as having failed."

Although his name was not mentioned it all sounds ominous for Rob Andrew. His old post, director of elite rugby, is being scrapped and he has not been invited to apply for the post of performance director, which most closely equates to it in the new structure.

Instead he has been told he will be considered for operations director. He has certainly won most plaudits for his work in that area, particularly for his part in brokering the agreement between the Premiership clubs and the union, but England have underperformed spectacularly on his watch and I think that leaves him in an impossible situation.

Known as 'Teflon' or 'Squeaky' (as in clean) to many in his playing days because he appeared immune from criticism regardless of the flak that was being thrown around about the rest of the team, his time might finally have run out.

The elephant in the room in all the conjecture surrounding the new post of performance director is, of course, Sir Clive Woodward. He has played his normal straight bat - insisting that he is totally immersed in his present job with the British Olympic Association.

He is the obvious candidate and he will feel he has unfinished business with the RFU. The retirement of Francis Baron, very much Woodward's bĂȘte noir, also means the main obstacle to a move back into rugby has been removed. He is also likely to be looking for employment after the 2012 Olympics.

"I did not rate him as a coach but he is the best organiser I have ever seen."

Is he the right man? Unquestionably. I did not rate him as a coach but he is the best organiser I have ever seen. His forte is putting the building blocks in place and driving everything through so the environment is perfect.

A couple of years ago I was invited to hear him speak on how to get the best out of top athletes in any sport. It was hugely impressive. He had taken everything he had learned from his England rugby days to a new level. His Powerpoint presentation - this was delivered before we sat down to eat because Woodward does not do after dinner speeches - was meticulous with a stunning attention to detail.

He covered every aspect of creating the right framework for top athletes to perform with a confidence and fluency that had everybody in the room buying into his vision. There were no questions because he had covered absolutely everything.

He is also a good learner and the megalomania and stubbornness that characterised some of his decision making earlier in his career have been suitably tempered without compromising his determination to get his own way.

The one huge blot on his CV is the 2005 British & Irish Lions Tour. We all told him not to try to reinvent the wheel but he had to have a go - he will not make the same mistake again.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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