BRIAN ASHTON – immediate predecessor of the beleaguered Martin Johnson as England manager – has described the Rugby Football Union as being in a ‘chaotic’ state as the search for a successor for one of the top jobs in the world game got under way.
And he said that the state of confusion at RFU headquarters could be one of the reasons why South African Nick Mallett had reportedly turned down the England job already.
Ashton, who is now head of coaching development at Fylde, said: “I know Nick very well and he would be a good choice –he is his own man and is old school, though there is nothing wrong with that.
“In terms of bringing the England players back in line, he would be very good.
“He is a intelligent and very professional in his approach, but if he took the job he might be looking over his shoulder – or above his head – all the time and reporting to a line manager who has less experience of international rugby than he has.
“Maybe Mallett has looked at that situation and said: ‘This is not for me.”
Ashton added: “The situation at the RFU has been chaotic and bizarre.
“It is a complete mess there, and it has gone on for the last six to 12 months.
“I would not be surprised that the reason Martin Johnson left was because he was sick and fed up.
“There seems to be a sea change in the players’ approach, and that they are more concerned about the financial rewards and commercial opportunities.
“It used to be all about getting to wear the white shirt with the red rose and that was enough.
“I accept that things change – otherwise it would still be an amateur game – but I just wonder now whether that is their main focus.
“I watched Martin Johnson’s press conference (when he announced he was resigning) and maybe he thought to himself: ‘What the Hell is going in the RFU and do I want to carry on working for an organisation like that?”
“I am not even sure if Rob Andrew (elite rugby manager) knows exactly what his job is.”
Other names that have been touted to succeed Johnson are the likes of Sir Clive Woodward, under whose charge England won the World Cup in 2003, as well as Northampton’s Jim Mallinder and Graham Henry, who steered New Zealand to their World Cup triumph last month.
Ashton said Mallinder, who has coached England Saxons, had good qualities, but doubted he possessed the experience.
“He has only been at Northampton for three or four years, and one of them was in the Championship, and there is a world of difference between coaching at club level and in the international game.”