Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Cotton to head up RFU review

RFU

Fran Cotton has agreed to chair an independent review of the entire England structure at the Rugby Football Union, which will place fresh scrutiny on Rob Andrew's role at Twickenham.

Press Association Sport understands that Cotton, the former RFU vice-chairman, will lead a two or three-strong panel that will include at least one member with no rugby connections.

Cotton's team will be charged with reviewing the performance of the RFU's professional rugby department and assessing Andrew's own report into England's failed World Cup campaign. The independent panel will undertake their review in November and then make recommendations to the RFU's management board and the council on December 2.

Andrew's current role is as Twickenham's rugby operations director and he has been nominally in charge of the whole England structure since the RFU failed to appoint a performance director. That episode culminated in John Steele's departure as chief executive and led to another RFU management restructure.

Andrew announced on Sunday, as England reflected on their World Cup quarter-final defeat to France, that he had accepted the new position of professional rugby director. That role was created to oversee the whole England set-up and the RFU's relationship with Premiership Rugby and the Championship but Andrew's appointment is yet to be rubber-stamped.

Cotton's panel will have the power to recommend the person they believe should head up the professional rugby department. That could be Andrew. But the fact he is not a guaranteed choice will also open the door to the possibility of Sir Clive Woodward returning to Twickenham as the new head of professional rugby.

Cotton's panel will also have the power to recommend changes to the England team's management structure. Martin Johnson's contract expires on December 21 and he is currently considering his options.

It appears that if Johnson is to continue in charge until England host the World Cup in 2015, he may have to accept working in a new-look structure. One potential outcome could be the appointment of a senior England team manager - in the mould of New Zealand's Darren Shand - who would be in charge of logistics but also team discipline.

Had England had a figure like that in place during the World Cup it would have been they who would have dealt with all the off-field disciplinary issues, leaving Johnson to focus on the rugby.

There is also a theory that the England head coach must have a closer working relationship with the professional rugby director, with the aim of creating a more challenging environment and greater accountability.

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