English Rugby
Thomas lends backing to Johnson
ESPNscrum Staff
October 28, 2011

The Rugby Football Union's acting chief executive Martyn Thomas has insisted he still has confidence in Martin Johnson and denied he ever called for the return of Clive Woodward.

Johnson's position is under scrutiny following England's poor World Cup campaign, which was undermined by off-field problems. His contract comes to an end at the end of the year and he is yet to tell the RFU whether he wants to be considered for re-appointment.

"He was never ever set a deadline, it was merely an informal situation, as and when you've made a decision as to whether you wish to carry on or not, let us know," Thomas told Radio Five Live. "I've not actually spoken to him since he left New Zealand but I have left him a message on his phone.

"He's had a torrid World Cup, a lot of it not of his making. I've always expressed confidence in Martin. I believed he was the right appointment. I accept the fact he didn't have the coaching experience, but it was about getting a man in who could manage the process, who understood the process and would appoint the right coaches. I will wait and see what the review says. That's my position."

A number of reviews into the World Cup failure have been commissioned, one by the Professional Game Board (PGB) and a second led by former England international Fran Cotton.

The Rugby Players' Association is collating feedback from the England squad - it said it has received information from approximately 80% of it so far - and feeding it into the PGB review. The RPA said the deadline for feedback was the end of October.

They added in a statement: "The players have been extremely honest in their assessment of the unsuccessful 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign and they are adamant that England must be in the right shape mentally, physically and technically to mount a credible challenge to the 2015 Rugby World Cup."

Thomas insisted it had "never been his position" to bring Woodward, who led the team to World Cup glory in Australia in 2003, back. He said: "The media have said I wanted to bring Clive Woodward back to Twickenham.

"That is not my position, and it has never been my position. What I have said is that we should openly advertise and we should interview people. If at the end of the interview process Clive Woodward is the right man because he ticks the boxes for the interview panel, they believe him the right man, then he should be appointed.

"If that panel interviews him and decides he's not the right man he should not be appointed."

In the search for his successor, Thomas revealed he was hoping an appointment would be recommended to the RFU board on December 14.

Former England international Simon Halliday confirmed he had not applied for the position. "I applied for the role last year, which is a matter of public record," he said. "The simple fact is the job spec for the new CEO certainly would exclude me for the criteria they've put in which is a FTSE 350 executive with significant commercial experience and retail experience. Clearly that's not me."

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