English Rugby
Woodward eyes RFU return
ESPNscrum Staff
June 12, 2011
Sir Clive Woodward OBE, Director of Sport for the British Olympic Association speaks during a IOC meetings, Westminster Bridge Park Plaza, London, England, April 6, 2011
Woodward is reportedly keen to return to the Rugby Football Union © Getty Images

Sir Clive Woodward is reportedly eager to return to the Rugby Football Union in the wake of the sacking of chief executive John Steele.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Woodward is still interested in heading up English rugby's elite department despite having distanced himself from the vacant post of performance director last month.

The newspaper reports that Woodward is keen to take on the performance director role - and not the chief executive position - on the condition that the former would include responsibility for the senior England team that is currently managed by Martin Johnson.

"Clive has no interest in returning to coaching or on taking on a front-line role, but he does feel that it makes sense for Johnson to report to someone on the rugby side, rather than a chief executive who may not have the appropriate skills," a source close to Woodward told the paper.

The paper also claims that Woodward's way back into rugby will not be blocked by the British Olympic Association where he is currently employed as deputy chef de mission of the British team for the London Olympics. "If someone from the RFU came to Clive and offered him a massive job tomorrow, he would consider it," said the source. "He feels an obligation to the Olympics because he wants to see it through, but if a big job came up it would be very attractive to him. He pulled out of the race on May 19 only because he believed he was getting stitched up."

However, contrasting reports insist that Woodward has contacted senior figures at the BOA over the past 24 hours to reassure them he is staying put until at least the end of the London Olympics in August next year.

Woodward was due to give a presentation to RFU chief executive John Steele on the role of performance director on March 17 only for Steele to cancel the interview - a move that would eventually lead to Steele's exit from the RFU. Steele later downgraded the job description, removing the senior England team from the remit, and Woodward withdrew his interest as a result.

The chances of a swift return for Woodward have also been played down by RFU chairman Martyn Thomas who insists that nothing will be rushed in fear of jeopardising England's preparations for the World Cup that kicks off in September. Informed of Woodward's renewed interest in the performance director role, Thomas told BBC 5Live, "If that is the case then Clive and I will need to speak...I'm available, Clive knows my telephone number and I would happily speak to him."

But Thomas has ruled out a part-time role that would allow Woodward to combine his BOA commitments with an RFU position. "We need to have a man that has the skill set and is 100% committed to putting England back to where it needs to be. We obviously need success in New Zealand and that is down to Martin Johnson and his coaches and we then need to be looking forward to 2015 which may sound a long way away but it isn't."

Asked whether he felt Woodward was clearly the best candidate for the performance director role, Thomas added, "I have huge respect for the man as the only Englishman to have won a World Cup. You have got to respect what the man has done. I accept that he had an outstanding bunch of players to work with but he was the guy that plotted England's success in 2003.

"The detractors will say to me that he left the Union in unfortunate circumstances and he was critical. Clive's departure was obviously a disagreement between him and Francis [Baron] our previous chief executive, it was like a divorce.

"Divorce is often six of one and half a dozen of the other and Clive has put his hands up to that. He has had a disastrous Lions tour, he's acknowledged that and it is over. He went to soccer, that's fine. He's been at the BOA and as far as I am aware there has been nothing to blot his copybook there. And as Brian Moore [former England international and now journalist] said to me the other day, this guy has a unique set of skills, he does not only understand rugby at the elite end he has actually developed a talent in relation to sporting success across a number of disciplines."

And Thomas also sees no reason to suggest Johnson would not be able to work with his former coach. "Martin has been very clear and his response to me when I discussed the options with him was 'I will do what is in the best interests of England, that is my sole objective'."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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