Woodward defends Lancaster

Date published: November 12 2015

Sir Clive Woodward has come to the defence of outgoing England head coach Stuart Lancaster following his stepping down on Wednesday.

The World Cup winning coach believes that England's failure at the 2015 event should not rest on the shoulders of Lancaster alone and that RFU chief Ian Ritchie should take the heat as well.

"It is so wrong that Lancaster alone seems to have been responsible for England's failure," the 59-year-old wrote in the Daily Mail on Thursday.

"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?

"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."

With the past two coaches being all-English but rather inexperienced, Ritchie has already hinted that the union may be under pressure to sign an experienced foreign coach for the first time.

Woodward acknowledges the pressure, but laments the blowback effect it has on English coaches.

"They are under pressure and feel as though they have to make a big appointment here," continued Woodward.

"And after all, who could blame them again down the line if they were to appoint a big name now? But it is a shame some of our proven Premiership coaches – probably headed by Northampton's Jim Mallinder and Exeter's Rob Baxter – will not be considered.

"There are some seriously great specialist English coaches such as Shaun Edwards and Steve Borthwick who could also have had a role to play."