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Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:28 UK

Ashton ponders options after exit

England head coach Brian Ashton
Ashton has received sympathy for the handling of his dismissal

Brian Ashton is taking legal advice after being removed as England head coach in the wake of Martin Johnson's appointment as team manager.

Ashton was reappointed on an "indefinite" contract last December which RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew indicated would run until 2011.

RFU chief executive Francis Baron said last week Ashton's contract required 12 months' notice from either side.

The RFU have offered Ashton the role of head coach of their National Academy.

Former England hooker Brian Moore, a qualified solicitor, has questioned the legality of the RFU's move to sideline Ashton.

"What has happened to Ashton is illegal and it is a disgrace," Moore told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It is the clearest constructive dismissal I have ever seen.

"Not only has it been conducted over the airwaves but over a protracted period and at any point they are lucky that Ashton did not sue them.

"He was employed on a one-year rolling contract so that means at any time that notice is given, he had a year to serve.

"The courts can award a successful litigant to be reinstated in their job - now that would be very interesting."

Moore added the offer of the National Academy post, a position Ashton previously held from 2002-05, would be scant consolation.

BBC Sport's Bryn Palmer
"You don't do this to people," added Moore. "You don't treat your top man like this. It beggars belief really.

"How can they offer him another job? What could be of equal rank to the head coach?

"You go from being the top man to being coach of the Academy - I don't think so."

Moore believes RFU chief executive Francis Baron should resign over the manner of Ashton's dismissal.

"Francis Baron ought to go - it is an absolute disgrace," Moore told BBC Radio 5 Live. "He should go or resign."

Ashton, 61, who rejoined the England set-up in May 2006 as attack coach, succeeded Andy Robinson as head coach in late December 2006.

After finishing third with three wins out of five in the 2007 Six nations, Ashton guided England to the World Cup final - where they lost 15-6 to South Africa - in Paris last year against the odds.

This year's Six Nations saw disappointing losses to Wales and Scotland, although England's second-place finish was their best since 2003.

Ashton is a victim of a power struggle in the management board of the RFU between the paid employees and the amateurs

Brian Moore

Moore, though, insists Ashton has not been given the time to make England a world force once more.

He said: "Ashton's had less than two years to try and turn the ship around - Clive Woodward had six so we are getting into short-termism again.

"It's immensely frustrating - it's not the sort of thing we need. The rest of the Premiership is doing well, the standards are improving and this is a public relations disaster."

Moore blamed the situation on divisions within the RFU, but suggested Ashton paid the price for not being ruthless enough.

"I think he's been too nice," added Moore.

"He stepped into a position when the RFU sacked the last coach Andy Robinson. They couldn't find anyone of note because it was seven months before a World Cup. He did them a favour.

"He's taking the rap for the players. He is also a victim of a power struggle in the management board of the RFU between the paid employees and the amateurs - some want Johnson firmly and some of them want Ashton. He has fallen foul of that.

"It is simply not good enough for the RFU to open itself up to ridicule like this.

"What message does it say to anyone who wants to be an employee with them on any contract? We are quite prepared to treat you shamelessly, illegally, badly and in full view of the public."

see also
Johnson named as England supremo
16 Apr 08 |  English
Johnson's career in photos
16 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
The verdict on Johnson
16 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Matt Dawson's view
16 Apr 08 |  English
Edwards admits talks with England
11 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
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
Axe hanging over Ashton
13 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton given 'long-term' contract
20 Dec 07 |  Rugby Union

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