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Former England head coach Clive Woodward has accused the Rugby Football Union (RFU) of using Stuart Lancaster as a scapegoat for the early exit at the Rugby World Cup.
Lancaster stepped down as England head coach on Wednesday after signing a six-year contract last year that would have taken him through to the 2019 World Cup.
England became the first host nation to be eliminated from a World Cup in the group phase after being placed in the Pool of Death.
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie says that they will now begin the search for a new coach but many – including Woodward – believe that Ritchie should also have been held accountable as he appointed Lancaster.
“It is so wrong that Lancaster alone seems to have been responsible for England’s failure,” Woodward wrote in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Mail newspaper.
“Those responsible for his appointment, and who have backed him and been happy to reap praise in the good times, should be looking in the mirror today and feeling very uncomfortable over what has happened.
“Instead, Ian Ritchie, the man who appointed Lancaster as head coach and offered the coaches six-year extensions just a year ago, has led the panel to review their performance before recommending to the board that Lancaster step down and he be the man to find the next England coach.
“That man will then report to Ritchie. What business would operate this way?”
He added: “I was fervently hoping for real change from top to bottom, with Ritchie admitting serious errors in the appointments and the structure of English rugby that has left us in this mess.
“Instead we find ourselves in the same position as we did four years ago when Martin Johnson stepped down having accepted the blame for a poor World Cup campaign in New Zealand.”
Ritchie said on Wednesday that the RFU will look to appoint a coach with “proven international experience”.
But Woodward believes that the RFU would leave itself open to accusations of hypocrisy if it hired a non-English coach, due to its refusal to allow overseas-based players to play for England.
“At Wednesday’s press conference Ritchie confirmed he will lead the search for the next England coach, that the next England coach will report to him and that he will appoint someone with international coaching experience,” said Woodward, who said he was not interested in succeeding Lancaster.
“So we can’t pick players who play abroad, but we can employ coaches who come from abroad? How ridiculous.
“I simply do not believe Ritchie, who does not know a ruck from a maul, is the right man to lead this appointment, let alone have the new man report to him in the years which follow.”
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