RFU reshuffle paves the way for Mallett

THE RUGBY Football Union yesterday confirmed their intention to appoint an interim manager ahead of February’s Six Nations, but hope to have named Martin Johnson’s full-time successor before next summer’s tour of South Africa.

Following yesterday’s meeting of the Professional Game Board, it was also revealed that embattled elite director of rugby Rob Andrew will no longer have direct contact with the senior national team.

Andrew, who had steadfastly refused to tender his resignation despite presiding over England’s shambolic World Cup campaign, has been appointed professional rugby director and will have responsibility for other representative teams and the relationship with Premiership Rugby.

Explaining the former England fly-half’s new role, Ian Metcalfe, chairman of the PGB, insisted Andrew’s change of position did not represent a demotion.

“I don’t think it’s a demotion at all,” he said. “One of the ways we failed Rob is not explaining the breadth of what he is trying to do. He has a significant contribution to continue to make.”

That said, by removing Andrew’s influence on the affairs of the senior team, the RFU have paved the way for Nick Mallett to replace Johnson on a full-time basis.

Earlier this week the South African (inset), currently in London to help promote Saturday’s Heroes Rugby Challenge in aid of injured armed forces personnel at Twickenham said: “The head coach should answer to the management board, not to a director of rugby or a guy with a similar title.”

Mallett, who stepped down as Italy coach after the World Cup, also indicated that with his family settled in his native South Africa, he would not be interested in the job until after the Six Nations.

As to the identity of the caretaker appointment, Saxons Coach Stuart Lancaster and England Sevens coach Dean Ryan have been mooted as possible contenders, while Kiwi John Kirwan reaffirmed his interest yesterday.

“I understand the situation the RFU is in at the moment, but I’m a little bit different to the other coaches,” said Kirwan.

“I’m a young coach, I enjoy risk, I love attack. Someone needs to get in there and sort the team out.

“If I’m not part of the future I’m prepared to do it as long as I’m set up to help these boys get back on the pitch and win football games.”