RFU assess a few ‘radical options’

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Francis Baron believes English rugby needs a new structure to end conflict between the clubs and the national side.

England are currently searching for a new coach after the departure of Andy Robinson following a string of poor results.

And Baron admits the current structure of the English game needs to be examined to help the national side get back on track.

“We’ve got to look at everything,” Baron said. “In the first six years of professionalism England led the way, we had very successful club performances and a successful England side.

“What’s happened over the last two to three years is that countries have put in place better systems than ours, they have leapfrogged us, Ireland in particular.

“They have a very, very effective system, both with their Heineken Cup sides and the international side.

“We’ve had a group looking at this for the past five months, we believe we need to look, us and the clubs, at a whole range of options about the playing structure of the game.

“Some of them are fairly radical options. We have to look at whether we play too many games, whether promotion and relegation is still relevant at the top of the game.

“You can’t just look at release dates in isolation, you’ve got to have a structure where the club game and the international game work together and not against each other.

“At the moment our structure tends to engender conflict between the club and the country. Ireland have a structure which works harmoniously and that’s what we’ve got to get.

“Rob [Andrew] is trying to come up with ideas where we change our structure so we have harm and productive relationship with our clubs and eliminate all those areas of conflict that sadly have been all too prevalent over the last few years.”

To that end, Baron had dinner with Saracens’ Nigel Wray and Tom Walkinshaw of Gloucester last week.

He added on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: “We had a very good dinner meeting and the conclusion we came to is that our system is creaking and we have to look at some radical solutions.

“There is a new sense of purpose and unity between the union and the senior club owners, we now have to build on that and get the club and international game back on track.

“I believe the club owners will play their part in coming up with a new system.”

As for the search for Robinson’s successor, Baron added: “Rob will make his thoughts clear in the near future, he’s not going to be rushed into it.

“Everyone just has to be a little but patient for not too much longer.”

Former Wales coach Mike Ruddock believes access to the players is crucial.

“It’s very difficult to serve two masters,” Ruddock said.

“Who is really going to get control of the players?

“What are you going to be judged on? Are you going to be judged on how good your national league is or whether you are successful in the Six Nations and the World Cup?

“I think it’s the latter and if you are looking to do that, ultimately you need to have a model that the coach can use his influence on to make sure he has the best players in the best nick for the most important periods in their careers.”

365 Digital

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