No room at RFU for Woodward

Getty Images     10 Oct 2012     Getty Images

England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach recently left his position as the British Olympic Association's director of sport following London 2012.

Ritchie is anxious to draw on the expertise of those involved in the Olympics but he insisted: "We don't have any vacancies.

"I respect totally what Clive did in rugby and the Olympics, but I am not going to get into hypotheticals.

"I am very happy with the way things are progressing at the moment."

The RFU are advertising for a head of athletic performance to work with the England team, although the job description would only cover part of Woodward's expertise.

The very fact Ritchie is in office at Twickenham is due to last year's managerial meltdown, which was sparked by a disagreement over whether Woodward should return to the RFU.

At the time, Woodward was in the frame to become England's performance director, a role that is effectively now part of Rob Andrew's brief as professional rugby director.

Ritchie not only denied that Andrew's position is under threat from the review that is being conducted into the RFU's performance department but backed his contribution to the union.

The review was proposed following England's disappointing 2011 World Cup campaign and is being conducted by Peter Keen, the former UK Sport performance director, and Sir Ian McGeechan.

"Is this a shorthand for 'what does it mean for Rob Andrew?' Certainly not," Ritchie said. "Rob has been involved in this process and supportive of it. He has great expertise.

"We should be aiming in the next three years to be giving the best possible support to the England players and the England team at all the age levels and that is fundamentally what the review is about."

Andrew was in Rome on Monday night for the latest round of talks over the threatened future of the Heineken Cup.

After six hours of negotiations, the only firm agreement reached among the 17 delegates was to hold a third round of talks in Dublin on October 30.

Ritchie has thrown Twickenham's weight behind Premiership Rugby's demands for reform of the Heineken Cup.

The Premiership and French clubs have served notice on the current European participation agreement, seeking changes to the qualification system and greater financial rewards from 2014.

The English clubs want to introduce greater meritocracy to the Heineken Cup by forcing clubs in the RaboDirect PRO12 to qualify on the same grounds as those in the Premiership and French Top 14.

At present, the two Scottish and two Italian teams are guaranteed places in the Heineken Cup every year and heading into today's meeting they were not willing to compromise on that position.

"We want to try and help bring that agreement together, recognising that it is very important to have a good highly competitive, meritocratic competition that exists across Europe," Ritchie said.

"I think we certainly support a view - most people do - that some change in the competition would be a good idea.

"How far it goes and what the nature of it is is the discussion that has to be had.

"It is in the interest of everybody to have a strong and vibrant European club competition. Those are the objectives we share with PRL and most of the other stakeholders as well.

"It needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency and priority but there is time to resolve it.

"I always start from a presumption there is an agreement that should be reached. Inevitably it will involve some compromise on all sides."