Regan stands by Ashton
PA Sport
October 25, 2007

England hooker Mark Regan insists he fully intends to continue his England career - and the veteran has given his backing for coach Brian Ashton to do the same.

Question marks have been raised over the futures of both men, with 35-year-old Regan one of the 'Dad's Army' of players expected to call time on their international careers following the unexpectedly successful World Cup campaign and Ashton yet to receive any positive backing from the Rugby Football Union.

But while Regan, who previously retired in 2004 before coming back into the fold earlier this year to play a central role in the team's odds-defying charge to the final, has the last say on whether he will be available for his country in the future, 61-year-old Ashton's fate will be decided by others.

Unfortunately for Ashton, many believe the upturn in fortunes was masterminded by the players who gathered amid the ruins of the big defeat to South Africa.

The RFU's director of elite rugby, former England fly-half Rob Andrew, has vowed to complete a thorough assessment of both the tournament and the years and months leading up to it before giving his recommendations for the future.

The lack of clamour for his reappointment speaks volumes and suggests that when Andrew does deliver his verdict, there will be no long-term contract on offer.

Instead, maybe the best Ashton can hope for is a one-year extension to the agreement that runs out in December while a permanent successor is found.

Speaking of his own plans Regan, who saw off stiff competition from George Chuter in France to start all but two of England's matches in the tournament - including all three knockout games - said: ``I can categorically say that I am not retiring from international rugby and am available for selection if required.

``Quite simply I am still enjoying it so why would I choose to quit? I retired once and did not particularly enjoy that so I am aiming to stick around this time if I am wanted.

``I might be 35 but I feel fit and healthy and ready for any new challenges there might be,'' Regan wrote on, the blog page of former England player Victor Ubogu.

Regan also dismissed suggestions that a wholesale revamp of the squad should be made ahead of next year's RBS 6 Nations - with fellow veterans Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Catt and Andy Gomarsall all making big contributions alongside the now-retired Jason Robinson.

``There have been comments that the experienced heads should step aside for the youngsters, but I think a mix is important if the older ones are playing well enough. I think the younger guys really benefited from our experience, especially after such as poor start, and it would be good to keep a bit of that going.''

Some of those older heads have been cautious in their defence of Ashton, with Catt backing the former Bath coach - but not without thinly-veiled reservations - and Dallaglio stopping short of even that level of support.

But Regan is unequivocal in his belief that Ashton should be given more time to build on his achievements.

``I am fully supportive of Brian Ashton and the rest of his coaching staff. You can't argue with the fact that they did a fantastic job in this campaign.

``The clear-the-air meeting after the South African pool game was important and Brian really took a central role in that - his management skills were A1.

``He is the man who makes the decisions and he really got the squad to pull together. He has only been in the job for a few months and I think he should be given a run at it.''

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