Andrew closes in on top job

By Ian Stafford

Last updated at 10:29 13 August 2006

Rob Andrew was last night on the brink of landing the job as England's elite director of rugby.

He has leapfrogged World Cup-winning boss Sir Clive Woodward in the drawn-out search for the man to take charge of the country's international teams since a cull of coaches after last season's Six Nations failure.

A Twickenham source has revealed that the four-man panel who will make the appointment — RFU chairman Martyn Thomas, chief executive Francis Baron, plus two former England captains, Bill Beaumont and John Spencer — are aware that Newcastle chief Andrew has a good relationship with the 12 Premiership clubs, who all favour his appointment.

At present the RFU's relationship with the clubs is in a disastrous state, with writs threatened over the proposed staging of an England versus New Zealand international at Twickenham on November 4. Newcastle are preparing to lose former England fly-half Andrew, who has been in charge for the past decade. In that time he has led them to the league title, along with two domestic cup triumphs and into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.

The club will not stand in Andrew's way to relocate to Twickenham and believe that, after 10 years, a change in direction may be a positive step for the club.

Newcastle are already looking around for Andrew's replacement, with Nigel Melville, the former Wasps and Gloucester director of rugby, high on their wish list. Chairman Dave Thompson will also be considering high-flying international coaches, such as South African Nick Mallett and Australian Eddie Jones.

Andrew, with a relatively recent 71 international caps to his name, knows current England head coach Andy Robinson well, after playing with him at international level. The RFU's new elite post carries with it the final say on selection for the England team.

And he has successfully overseen the emergence of Jonny Wilkinson and now Mathew Tait at Newcastle to give him the sort of credentials that have lifted him to top place on the RFU's short-list of two.

Woodward, whose relations with the clubs was always poor, also upset many at the RFU when he criticised the union during his resignation speech in September, 2004. 'He burnt a lot of bridges that day at the RFU,' said a Union source.

Currently employed as director of football at Southampton FC, Woodward has made it known that his ambition is to manage a Premiership football club.

Returning to Twickenham would scupper that dream for good, although the job specification of the new elite director of rugby looked almost as if it could have been written for Woodward.

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