Woodward backs Ashton

England’s World cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has come out in support of current England coach Brian Ashton saying that he is working with “one hand tied behind his back” in the club-v-country row.

Woodward that said he empathised with the England hierarchy who want players rested before internationals. “It’s not easy compared to what South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are doing,” said Woodward.

“We’re trying to beat the Kiwis with one hand behind our backs.”

The latest problem comes about as the Six nations has an off week and the players are supposed to go back to their clubs. In contrast Ireland, who England play next, get the weekend off and will stay with the Ireland management.

Rob Andrew who is the Rugby Football Union’s director of elite rugby has urged the clubs to rest their internationals this week.

Jonny Wilkinson has been left out of the Newcastle line up and Leicester coach Richard Cockerill says that none of his players named in England’s team to face Ireland next Saturday will play a full Premiership game this weekend.

Woodward, now director of elite performance at the British Olympic Association, said he was not suggesting that every player be rested but that each player is treated individually.

“It is easy to say ‘leave them all out’ but you have to treat it on its merits,” he said.

“For example, Martin Johnson played better for England when he had played for his club the week before. “It’s not about central contracts – that’s a red herring.

“It’s about making sure the England coach has the final say. If you have the right man in charge he should make the right decision.”

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