Thomas: Clive should be managing English rugby

Martyn Thomas says Clive Woodward should be running England Rugby

Former RFU Chairman Martyn Thomas says that before he left the RFU he told them that Stuart Lancaster was the wrong man to lead England into a Rugby World Cup.

The former RFU Chairman left the RFU in December 2011 after being in charge for five years and revealed that he tried twice to bring Sir Clive Woodward back into England Rugby.

Thomas says that had he been successful in bringing Woodward back into English Rugby the team would still be in contention for the Rugby World Cup.

The former RFU boss says that it is a “tragedy” Woodward is not in charge of the England team and that he predicted that Lancaster’s lack of experience at the highest level would be exposed on the biggest stage.

“Before I left, I warned the RFU board that Stuart was not the right man for the job,” Thomas told the Daily Telegraph.

“He is a lovely, pleasant and diligent man and he has done his very best. But he had not played or coached the game at the top level and does not have the technical experience or expertise to cut it at international level.

“Look at the coaches in the -quarter-finals of the World Cup – Warren Gatland, Michael Cheika, Steve Hansen and so on – they are proven at the very highest level and they have an X-factor. The brutal truth is that Stuart does not have that at the moment. We have gone nowhere during the last four years and that is a terrible indictment.”

Thomas recalled the celebrations when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and said had England won this time, “It would have been on a different scale to that this time and we blew it.”

“The overriding emotion for me has been one of profound frustration at a lost opportunity,” said Thomas who now runs a farm in Carmarthenshire Wales.

“I am not going to see another home World Cup in this country again and an awful lot of other rugby fans won’t either,” he told Telegraph Sport.

“The country got behind the team massively, but I’m sad to say they were let down. I remember the open-top bus parade in 2003, the Cup going on tour and the huge feel-good factor there was. It would have been on a different scale to that this time and we blew it.”

Thomas said that he had tried to bring Woodward back into English Rugby twice but was blocked by other members of the RFU.

“The tragedy is that Clive should be managing English rugby,” he said.

“If he was, I am convinced we wouldn’t be in the terrible mess we are now. We would be contending to win the World Cup, not packing our bags. It was painful to see someone who should be in charge of English rugby sat in a TV studio.

“Yes, Clive can be difficult to manage. But exceptional people need exceptional managers. And let’s be honest, English rugby had not had anyone like him before or it has not had anyone like him since.”

Thomas revealed that in 2006 he tried to bring in Woodward as a Performance Director.

“The shortlist was Ian McGeechan, Rob Andrew and Clive Woodward,” he explained.

“And Clive did an amazing presentation with so much detail. No stone was left unturned.”

“He was by far and away the best candidate and I have no doubt he would have put an amazing system in place. But at the last minute, Francis Baron (the former chief executive) said: ‘I can’t work with him’. The two of them had history following the circumstances around Woodward’s departure as manager in 2005, so Andrew got the job.

“I remember Woodward coming into the interview with ‘do not lose your temper’ written in Biro on his hand by his wife.”

Woodward was also in line for the role of Performance Director again in 2011 and even underwent psychometric testing but he decided to rule himself out when the job description was changed by the newly appointed chief executive, John Steele.

“When we interviewed John Steele for the job of chief executive, he made a big play of looking to bring Clive back in,” Thomas said.

“But when it came to the crunch, I think he was afraid of Clive taking the limelight from him and didn’t want to be upstaged. Again he suggested Clive was unmanageable. But here was a man with the perfect skill set. None of them were prepared to see it. The RFU Council didn’t like Clive because he wouldn’t doff his cap to them.”

Thomas now believes that it is high time that the RFU’s professional rugby director Rob Andrew should leave his position as England have not delivered under him in the nine years he has been in charge.

“Rob Andrew is earning a package of more than £400,000 a year but has not delivered,” Thomas said.

“I was not prepared to consider him for the professional rugby job before I left, but he managed to hang on.”

Thomas also criticized the RFU’s ban on selecting players who are based overseas such as Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon who play in France.

“It used to be the case that if you had two players of equal standing in the same position then you would go for the English-based player. Somehow it evolved to become a blanket ban on all overseas players,” he said.

“That has been very damaging. Look at Australia, who made an exception for an exceptional player in Matt Giteau. ”

“But we didn’t do the same for Steffon Armitage, a twice European player of the year.”

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