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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Andrew vows to build on success
England's players return to Heathrow airport
England's players are back in the country after seven weeks in France
England's rugby chief Rob Andrew says his World Cup review will help build on the team's progress to the final and avoid the mistakes made after 2003.

Andrew will sift over the four years since England won the World Cup before deciding on the structure going forward or the future of coach Brian Ashton.

"English rugby got itself in a real mess after 2003," said Andrew.

"It's been an extraordinary effort by Brian and the guys. We must make sure we build on that and move forward."

Andrew, the Rugby Football Union's elite rugby director, insists he will develop a structure to help England arrive at the 2011 and 2015 World Cups in the best possible shape.

He expects to announce in the next few weeks a final resolution to the club v country row that has dogged English rugby for a decade.

His main goals are to ensure the national coach gets ample time with his players, the clubs are not left without their prime assets and the players themselves are not overloaded.

Everyone understands the difficulties since Brian took over - it was a hospital pass, England were in complete disarray

Rob Andrew

England surprised many observers by reaching the World Cup final against South Africa after woeful performances in the opening two pool games in France.

Ashton's team began the tournament ranked seventh in the world after a slide that began in the immediate aftermath of the 2003 victory in Australia.

The world champions lost a host of key players and subsequently World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward through retirement, while others, such as fly-half Jonny Wilkinson picked up long-term injuries.

Andy Robinson took over from Woodward in October 2004 but his tenure ended with eight defeats in nine games and Ashton took over in December 2006, four months after Andrew was appointed to his role as overseer.

"Everyone understands the difficulties since Brian took over," said Andrew. "It was a hospital pass, England were in complete disarray.


"All the guys - the players and Brian as head coach, worked incredibly hard through the Six Nations, a South African tour that was rather strange, and then into an extremely tough World Cup campaign."

The 61-year-old Ashton's contract is up for review on 31 December and he has admitted he would like to carry on in the role, saying: "I enjoy doing the job. England have got a pretty exciting future."

But Andrew refused to be drawn and added: "I've said all along I've got a very good relationship with Brian. We've been talking almost every day for the last nine months.

"We've said we'll have a really good look at the World Cup campaign and the last nine months but we'll do that when the dust settles, not in the immediate aftermath of the last seven weeks."

England's players arrived at Heathrow airport at lunchtime on Monday, disembarking their British Airways plane - named "Hope and Glory" in recognition of its passengers - at 1235 BST.

The airline had special headrests made up for the flight, bearing the message "We're Proud Of You".

Ashton led the way down the steps of the plane, closely followed by the players who went so close to making history as the first team to successfully defend the World Cup.

England prop Matt Stevens tries to regain his dignity
Matt Stevens falls for a schoolboy prank at Heathrow

The players, who flew business class from Paris, lined up for the waiting photographers before reboarding to collect their hand luggage, although prop Matt Stevens had his shorts yanked down by his team-mates as the cameras clicked away.

Full-back Jason Robinson, now retired from the sport, had his right arm in a sling, while Josh Lewsey - who missed the final with a hamstring injury - hobbled down the steps in a little discomfort.

In contrast to the memorable scenes at the airport after their return from Australia in 2003, the RFU advised fans not to travel to Heathrow because of health and safety concerns from British Airways, the British Airports Authority and the police.

The players, coaches and support staff were transferred to the team's bus which travelled to Twickenham Stadium, where they received an enthusiastic welcome from a small crowd of fans.

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