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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Will Woodward return to rugby?
By Simon Austin

Sir Clive Woodward
Woodward is Southampton's director of football
Sir Clive Woodward's presence has loomed large over Twickenham ever since he resigned as England coach in September 2004.

And so it was again on Thursday, as the long-awaited review of England's dismal Six Nations performance was unveiled at rugby's HQ.

The review set out a new England coaching set-up, headed by an "Elite Rugby Director".

This person will oversee all aspects of representative rugby in England, from the regional Academies and under-19 team to the full senior side.

He will mastermind strategy and selection for the England team, recruit coaches and try to broker a deal with the clubs over player availability.

So it was little surprise when RFU chairman Martyn Thomas said: "There will be a very limited number of people with the qualifications, gravitas and ability for the position."

I've worked with Clive for a long time and he and I, and our wives, are good friends
Francis Baron
RFU chief executive

Woodward is undoubtedly one such man.

Indeed, the role seems tailored to his abilities and experience - strategy, negotiating and organisation were his strong suits during seven years as England's head coach.

He was the "big picture" man who prided himself on ensuring that England always stayed one step ahead of the opposition.

And Woodward has suggested that only this kind of overarching role would tempt him back to rugby.

On Thursday morning, former Lions manager Fran Cotton suggested RFU chief executive Francis Baron was blocking such a return because of "animosity" over Woodward's acrimonious exit in 2004.

But Baron dismissed this as "nonsense" at the Twickenham news conference.

"Clive and I worked very closely together for six years and we know each other very well," he said.

"I've worked with Clive for a long time and he and I, and our wives, are good friends."

Baron said he expected it to take "months rather than weeks" to appoint an Elite Rugby Director, as there could be contract issues and severance pay to negotiate with current employers.

Indeed Woodward is under contract at Southampton, where he is director of football, and reported to earn about 500,000 a year.

Andy will be concentrating on his great skills of coaching and team preparation
Francis Baron

Andy Robinson has been uncomfortable with some aspects of his job since he succeeded Woodward as head coach.

He will now be allowed to "concentrate on his great skills of coaching and team preparation," according to Baron.

The Elite Rugby Director will now have a say in team selection, drawing up "strategy" for the team each season and even in selecting coaches.

It is unclear exactly what Robinson thinks about such a diminution of his powers, or how he would react to the return of his old boss, Woodward.

The fact he would not have had a say in this restructuring or in the selection of the forwards, attack and defence coaches might even put Woodward off a return.

But he is a man who loves a challenge - and none come bigger than masterminding a successful defence of England's World Cup.

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