Is Andrew really the power behind the throne?
March 28, 2008
"He is, essentially, the chief executive of the playing side of the RFU, a manager of managers but is he really necessary? What has changed since this new post was created?" John Taylor questions Rob Andrew's role
Am I alone in wondering what Rob Andrew actually does?
He is quite clear about what he does not do - management or coaching of any England team at any level - but apart from being chief liaison officer it is very hard to see how he earns his salary - reportedly in excess of £300,000 a year.
When he was appointed to the newly created post of Elite Rugby Director in August 2006 the RFU's official statement said, 'He will head a department which includes all the England representative teams from the Under 18s through to the senior side, the National and Regional Academies, run in partnership with the Guinness Premiership Clubs, elite referees and sports science and medicine. All areas of the department are aimed at developing players for the international stage.
I remember wondering what that meant at the time and I'm still in the dark almost two seasons later.
He has brokered an agreement between the Premiership Clubs and the RFU - having been Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons for 11 years he was the ideal man to break the deadlock between the two warring parties - which ought to solve the club v country dilemma but what is his ongoing role?
He is, essentially, the chief executive of the playing side of the RFU, a manager of managers but is he really necessary? What has changed since this new post was created?
All the age groups have their coaches, Kevin Bowring has been overseeing elite coach development very successfully we are told for some years, there is a manager for referees' development, the national and regional academies were up and running, all with their own managements long before he was appointed so what does Andrew actually do?
Cynics will say he conducts reviews that come to nothing.
I cannot understand why he did not take on the job of England Manager as part of his overseeing role. He could even have been a selector/manager - Brian Ashton would have accepted that if it had been a fact of life when he was appointed - but now his most pressing task is to persuade Martin Johnson to take that responsibility. Let's be clear - any lesser role would be of no interest to Johnson.
It has been suggested in some quarters that he has no interest in coaching which is nonsense. I have done a couple of Q and A sessions with him over the past 12 months and at both he made it quite clear that he was keen to give it a try at some stage but, typically, did not believe his playing achievements would automatically make him a top coach.
Taking nothing for granted he saw himself starting at the bottom working with youngsters well away from the limelight while he discovered whether he had anything to offer.
He will be reluctant to change that plan but, after three years away from the playing side, he is obviously ready to get involved again and it might be an offer he can't refuse.
It is well known that Ashton requested a Manager to take over some of the fronting up duties but did not want him to have any say in rugby matters.
That is now pie in the sky. He will have to accept Johnson as his boss if he is invited to carry on. There is no chance of Johnno coming on board if that is not accepted and the very fact he is still in the frame indicates that has already been made clear.
He would effectively take over Sir Clive Woodward's role. Lady Jane, Clive's wife, always insisted Clive was a coach not a manager but she was the only one who saw it that way.
Even in the early days when the press were allowed to stay for a whole training session instead of being ushered away after the warm-up he managed practice sessions while his assistants did the actual coaching.
Just like a football manager he dictated the way his team would play, was chief selector, decided when to make substitutions and was the man who fronted up in public. Johnno would rather bide his time, take his coaching badges and emerge fully fledged at a time of his choosing than accept anything less.
And if he does accept the invitation where does that leave Andrew?
At the moment he sits in the stand just behind Ashton - always looking over his shoulder - leaving everybody wondering how much he is the power behind the throne while he insists he does not interfere.
Johnno will not want him anywhere near the playing operation - he did not allow confused messages when he played and he will not allow them now.
It might just be that, by appointing Jonno, Andrew makes himself redundant.