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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 December 2006, 09:56 GMT
England boss seeks end to dispute
England looking dejected after losing to South Africa
England have fallen behind other nations in terms of their set-up
English rugby needs to solve the long-running conflict between club and country before the national team can return to the top of the world game.

That is the view of English rugby chief Francis Baron, who told BBC Five Live that governing body the RFU was looking at "some fairly radical options".

Baron, the RFU chief executive, said other countries had "come up with better systems and leapfrogged us".

He also said he believed the clubs now recognised the need for change.

Baron met key figures in club rugby last week, including Gloucester chairman Tom Walkinshaw, Saracens owner Nigel Wray and Mark McCafferty at Premier Rugby - which represents all the clubs.

Our timetable is to get real consultation going on the game, with Premier Rugby, by January

RFU chief executive Francis Baron
"We were very open with each other," added Baron, talking on BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

"The conclusion we both came to was our system is creaking and we have to change it. We have to accept, on both sides, that we have to look at some radical solutions.

"So we're going to be meeting again in a week's time and I think the good thing about the difficulties we've been through is that there is a new sense of purpose and unity between the RFU and the club owners."

Baron has come under some criticism for his part in England's recent slump, which saw head coach Andy Robinson leave following the team's 25-14 loss to South Africa.

Francis Baron (left) with former England coach Andy Robinson
Baron (left) is leaving Rob Andrew to find Robinson's successor
But the RFU chief executive believes the situation has not been helped by the club versus country row, which has seen the RFU come into conflict with Premier Rugby over access to players.

"A paper with some very thought-provoking ideas is going to come from the RFU's elite director Rob Andrew and his team to the management board on 20 December," said Baron.

"Our timetable is to get real consultation going with Premier Rugby by January because we believe we've got to come up with some genuine solutions to address a number of issues.

"You can't just look at release days in isolation, you've got to have a structure where the club game and the international game work together, not against each other."

Ireland have a structure that works harmoniously between club and country - that's what we've got to get

RFU chief executive Francis Baron

Determined to restore England's reputation as world leaders in the game, Baron has been forced to look to other nations for ideas.

"Ireland have a structure that works harmoniously between club and country - that's what we've got to get," he added.

"What's happened over the last two to three years is other countries have put in better systems than ours.

"They've leapfrogged us - Ireland in particular have a very effective system both with their Heineken Cup side and their international side.

"Yes, you have to look at whether we play too many games in England. On union side, we have to look at whether promotion and relegation is still relevant at the top level."

606 DEBATE: Can this dispute be solved?

As for the search for Robinson's successor, Baron added: "Rob will make his thoughts clear in the near future, he's not going to be rushed into it.

"Rob is a great guy and will come up, I'm sure, with the right way forward - he'll get my support and management's support when he does that."

SEE ALSO
RFU boss Baron rejects quit calls
30 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
England 'must wait for new coach'
30 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
England's era of decline
29 Nov 06 |  English


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