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RFU plots England role for Ashton

England head coach Brian Ashton
Ashton's future has been in doubt since the Six Nations

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) says it wants Brian Ashton to remain as part of a new-look England coaching set-up.

Ashton's future has been the subject of intense speculation, with Martin Johnson expected to be appointed as England's new team manager next week.

A revamped coaching structure is also set to be unveiled.

"Brian's a wise old bird. He'll decide if he likes the new structure or not - but I hope he does," RFU chief Francis Baron told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He's a great individual and being a blunt Lancastrian, he will tell us if he doesn't like it.

"My hope is that we are strengthening the structure. Clearly everybody in the new structure, new and old, has to feel they can work together.

"We can't force people to work together if they don't want to.

"Maybe I'm being idealistic but I hope the new structure will accommodate everybody and we can move forward with a structure in place that will deliver more consistent and better results for the England team."

Baron's comments on Ashton are the first time the RFU has publicly commented on the head coach's position since the end of the Six Nations.

During that time the organisation has been criticised over Ashton's treatment, with the silence from Twickenham doing little to calm the constant speculation about World Cup-winning captain Johnson coming in as manager.

What I hope is that everybody wants to work in the new structure

RFU chief executive Francis Baron

"Brian has been kept informed of developments by (RFU director of elite rugby) Rob Andrew, but clearly Rob can't tell him all the bits and pieces because Rob is having confidential conversations with other people," said Baron.

"I understand why Brian may feel that he would like to have more detail than he has had, but I spent an hour with him last week and we had a very friendly and open chat, and he understands the process we're going through."

Johnson is understood to be insisting on total control of team affairs through to the next World Cup in 2011, a role which would clearly impinge on Ashton's position.

A new specialist backs coach is also set to be appointed, which could cause friction given that it is Ashton's particular area of expertise.

The 61-year-old Ashton had asked for a manager to lighten his workload, but insisted he did not want to relinquish control of rugby matters.


But Baron said the precise nature of the England team manager's job description had yet to be agreed by the RFU's management board.

"We have got a draft job description and that has been the subject of discussion between Rob and the candidates - we want them to have an input into it - and then a final one will go before the board next week as part of a package," he said.

"We are recruiting a team manager and an additional specialist coach, and we're at an advanced stage in the negotiations to fill those positions. The current plan is for Rob to bring proposals to the board meeting and we will then take decisions and move forward."

Ashton has been England's head coach since January 2007, leading the side to the World Cup final and second place in this year's Six Nations.

"Brian Ashton is under contract, he has to give us 12 months' notice if he wants to leave, and we can give 12 months' notice to him," added Baron.

"But what I hope is that everybody wants to work in the new structure.

"My ideal is to build on the current structure, address the weaknesses that have been identified so we move forward with a more powerful team who will deliver more consistent results for England."

see also
Corry backs Johnson for England
08 Apr 08 |  Leicester
Johnson must be coach - Woodward
06 Apr 08 |  English
England target Johnson as manager
21 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton's England future unclear
26 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton given 'long-term' contract
20 Dec 07 |  Rugby Union

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