Andrew happy to work with ‘whoever gets job’

Rob Andrew has offered an olive branch to English rugby’s knight in shining armour Sir Clive Woodward by saying he would have no problem working alongside the World Cup-winning England coach if he was appointed as the Rugby Football Union’s new performance director.

Andrew was confirmed yesterday as the new rugby operations director at Twickenham after his previous role was made redundant in a sweeping management shake-up instigated by chief executive John Steele.

The elite department and the RFU’s community arm were brought together in a single rugby department, divided into three areas: performance, operations and development.

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Steve Grainger, currently chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, has been appointed as the new rugby development director in charge of the community game.

The recruitment process for the performance job, the highest-profile of the three, has been delayed by the lengthy interview process.

Woodward, who led England to World Cup glory in Australia in 2003, is currently in charge of elite performance at the British Olympic Association and has been strongly linked with the position – but he and Andrew have history.

The two former England internationals have traded sharp words since Andrew was preferred for the elite rugby director’s job in 2006.

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It is vital for Steele that his three new directors can work closely together.

All three successful candidates will have come through psychometric testing to vet their suitability.

As a result, Richmond-born Andrew is confident he will have a productive relationship with the new performance director, whether it is Woodward who gets the job or not.

“I will work with whoever is appointed because the process they will have gone through will prove they are capable of working in a team structure,” Andrew said.

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“I am very comfortable with what might happen. I am very comfortable with the way I work. That is how I have operated to get us to where we are now and I will continue to do so.”

In the role of elite rugby director, which Andrew held for nearly five years, he was responsible for laying the foundations for the success England have enjoyed over the last year.

England won the RBS Six Nations title for the first time since 2003, the Under-20s are Grand Slam champions and the Under-18s have lost one game in three years.

Andrew – who won 71 caps for England – negotiated the English Qualified Player (EQP) scheme and an eight-year deal with the Aviva Premiership clubs to secure England additional access to their elite players (EPS).

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Although Andrew will relinquish overall control of the performance department, he will remain involved at the elite end through his continued management of those schemes.

Andrew’s new brief – a first in world rugby – will see him working with both the elite and community directors as England prepare for hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“Rob has done an incredible job in the last few years. When he came into this role as elite performance director there was a lot to be done, a considerable amount,” Steele said.

“He has developed some structures and processes and developed an environment that is now allowing our England team to perform in the way we want to see them perform.

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“What I am now asking him to do is extend that challenge to the whole of the game. This model has never been seen before in world rugby.”

Andrew – who was at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last Saturday as England’s grand slam dream unravelled – admitted he thought “long and hard” about whether to apply for the position but insisted it was not a sideways move.

“This is about reshaping the RFU and putting rugby right at the centre of the organisation. This is a great opportunity and a great challenge,” Andrew said.

“I see this as a career progression for me personally and hopefully to use my experience to pull things together so when we are coming out of the 2015 World Cup we have a huge platform that this is a union that is delivering for those involved in rugby.”

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Italy full-back Andrea Masi has been voted the 2011 RBS Six Nations player of the championship.

It is the first time an Italian has received the honour, which is decided by supporters who vote on a shortlist comprised of winners of the man-of-the-match awards from the first four rounds.

Masi was a key figure in the Azzurri’s shock 22-21 victory over France, their first Six Nations triumph against Les Bleus, scoring a try and finishing man of the match.

“It has been a championship of highs and lows for the Italian team,” said Masi.

“Our win against France will go down in rugby history but to finish sixth frustrated us all.”