RFU say sorry for World Cup as Andrew gets ‘demoted’
Rugby Football Union (RFU) acting chief executive Stephen Brown apologised Wednesday for England’s dismal World Cup display as Rob Andrew was removed from direct involvement with the senior team.
England lost in the quarter-finals to France in New Zealand after a campaign marred by embarrassing off-field incidents, including veteran centre Mike Tindall’s alcohol-fuelled night out in Queenstown.
“The most important thing is to make an apology to everyone involved in rugby for the performance of the World Cup and the surrounding events,” Brown told a press conference at Twickenham.
“We’ve let ourselves down as a sport and as a team. It’s important we recognise that and take some action going forward.
“Standards were below what we expect, we had a number of off-pitch disciplinary matters and that attracted a lot of negative coverage which we regret.
“We need to fix this going forward and make sure we are in a better place going into 2015 (when England host the World Cup).”
Brown was speaking following an RFU management board meeting that considered recommendations from the advisory Professional Game Board (PGB) following a series of post World Cup reviews — all leaked last week to The Times newspaper.
Alongside him was PGB chairman Ian Metcalfe, who said: “We also apologise to the players themselves and coaches for the leaks that happened, they are inexcusable.
“But we must not get so wrapped up in finding the leaker to ignore the real issues we have in England rugby.”
Among the recommendations the RFU board approved were the appointment of a team manager to handle all “non-playing responsibilities”, with the successful applicant filling a role similar to that of New Zealand’s Darren Shand, and an independent review of the elite rugby department.
Martin Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach, resigned as team manager — in his case he was effectively the head coach — before The Times published the leaks.
But RFU elite rugby director Andrew has repeatedly refused to quit.
Andrew’s current position has been cited as an impediment to the appointment of a world-class, proven, coach as a long-term successor to Johnson, with the likes of former South Africa and Italy boss Nick Mallett saying they’d want to report directly to the chief executive and the board, not a director of rugby.
And Metcalfe revealed Wednesday former England fly-half Andrew was to be stripped of any role with the senior England team.
Instead Andrew’s new role of professional rugby director means he will have responsibility for other representative sides and the relationship with Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body for England’s top-flight clubs.
However, Metcalfe insisted: “I don’t think it’s a demotion at all.”
Asked about Johnson’s replacement, Metcalfe added: “We will take as much time as we need to make that appointment. We want to make it as open a process as possible.
Metcalfe said the aim was to have a permanent successor to Johnson in place by the time of England’s tour of South Africa in June.
An interim coach will be in charge for England’s defence of their Six Nations title, due to start in February, but no appointment has yet been made.
Metcalfe added the RFU hoped to have a new chief executive in place by the turn of the year.
This year has seen the RFU lose a chief executive in John Steele following the fall-out from a botched attempt to create a new performance director role many thought would go to 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.
Then RFU chairman Martyn Thomas was forced to stand down in the ensuing furore. He also quit as acting RFU chief executive on Tuesday and was replaced by chief financial officer Brown.
One of Thomas’ last acts at Twickenham was to reduce from £25,000 ($39,000) to £15,000 a fine imposed upon Tindall as a result of his night out and restore the midfielder to the squad after he was kicked out by Andrew, who imposed the original fine.