It was with some sadness that RFU Chief Executive, Ian Ritchie, announced at Twickenham that England head coach Stuart Lancaster would depart from his post with immediate effect.
The search will start immediately for what Ritchie described as “the best possible candidate to fill the post.”
Lancaster will also leave his role as Head of International Player Development, which England Saxons Coach Joe Lydon will fill during the short-term.
RFU chairman Bill Beaumont said the Ritchie had the full backing of the RFU Board in this decision process, and the full empowerment to make a new appointment, but that the quality of the candidate rather than the timing would be the key driver.
The England assistant coaches remain in post for the foreseeable future with the possibility of them acting in a caretaker role before a new head coach is appointed.
“Elite sport is about fine margins and we saw that throughout the RWC,” explained Ritchie.
"But it is also about winning in the tightest environments as we saw versus Wales and many times thereafter.
“Nobody is more disappointed than Bill, Stuart and myself about our performance during the World Cup, and I know this also applies to all of fans and our players.
“With regards to the review of England’s performances, the panel saw 29 people and I independently saw 30 people and fed views back into the review.
“We spent a lot of time during the process with Stuart and with the players and we thank them for their input.
“I believe we have been rigorous and objective in asking questions, and, after the conclusion we agreed unanimously that it was time for a change of the head coach.
“After the findings I spent several hours with Stuart going through the review. It was both of our views that we needed a change in terms of our head coach and I want to make that clear.
“Since 2011, Stuart has worked tirelessly with a passion and commitment that is clear to provide a strong management and strong culture. I and the RFU thank him for that.
“Looking to the future; it is key that we spend sufficient time to find the right person and that they have the relevant international experience to build upon the foundations we have."
RFU Chairman, Bill Beaumont, added: “I chaired the meeting last night when we received Ian’s recommendation and it was passed unanimously."
Despite successes off the pitch, with a record breaking 2015 Rugby World Cup, a thriving CBRE “All Schools Programme”, there remains a lack of fulfilment at the elite end of the sport and this continued failure at international level must also sit firmly at the door of the chief executive. What triggered the decision to fire Lancaster rather than make other structural changes?
“Without going into detail of a confidential review, we went through an extensive process, and gathered something approaching 100 pieces of information, including the views of 12 Premiership coaches," Ritchie added.
“The conclusion was unanimous, and it was that we want the right person, and a seasoned international performer. It’s an attractive position and we need exceptional applicants.
“I am CEO and I run the organisation. I will continue to run the organisation and will continue to build upon the commercial successes we enjoy, but I realise also that the responsibility to make this work at Elite level lies with me,” agreed a contrite Ritchie.
Beaumont added: “With regards to Stuart, he will leave with immediate effect. It is key that the new person puts together his strategy without impediment.”