Ritchie has 'no regrets' over Lancaster

Fri, 19 May 2017 08:14
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ian Ritchie insisted Thursday he had "no regrets" over appointing Stuart Lancaster as England's head coach.

Ritchie is set to retire as Chief Executive of England's governing Rugby Football Union (RFU) later this year, having announced his surprise departure from Twickenham on Wednesday.

RFU Chairman Andy Cosslett believes Ritchie, 63, helped end the civil war within the organisation following his arrival in 2012, with the fall-out from England's miserable World Cup campaign of the year before still in evidence.

The disappointment of a quarterfinal loss to France was compounded in 2011, in some quarters, by the drunken antics of a group of players on a night out in Queenstown as well as incidents such as Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour.

Team manager Martin Johnson, England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain, resigned and there was still no permanent successor in place by the time Ritchie arrived.

It was Ritchie who oversaw the process that ended with Lancaster, promoted from his position as coach of England's Saxons or 'A' team, even though the Englishman had never been in charge of a major club side.

The end result was an even more disappointing World Cup campaign in 2015 when England became the first host nation to bow out in the first round after successive Twickenham defeats by Wales and Australia.

That led the RFU to effectively sack Lancaster and bring in the vastly experienced Eddie Jones instead. 

Under the Australian, England have won 17 out of 18 Tests and two successive Six Nations titles, including a Grand Slam in 2016.

But Ritchie, who appointed Lancaster, now with Irish province Leinster, rather than bring in the likes of South Africa's Nick Mallett, told reporters at Twickenham: "To be clear, I have no regrets about Stuart Lancaster at all, and I really feel for Stuart and what he put in and the whole coaching team.

"Eddie Jones just has that knack when it comes to fine margins.

"I still think Stuart did a huge number of positive things, but the ultimate is what we did [at the 2015 World Cup]."

Asked if England's performance at the tournament would be the lasting regret of his time at the helm of the RFU, Ritchie answered: "Without question.

"We thought it would be the chance of a lifetime, and it didn't happen," added Ritchie a former Chief Executive of the All England club responsible for organising the Wimbledon tennis championships.

With Jones having indicated he will step down after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Ritchie said now was a good time for a new Chief Executive to take over.

"Obviously I thought seriously about staying on for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, and with the situation after 2015 and seeing the situation with Eddie Jones through.

"But you need a good time in terms of transition for the union."

Cosslett praised Ritchie for his part in helping unify the English Rugby Union, saying: "If you look at the state this union was in when Ian walked through the doors five and a half years ago, it was a union at war with itself.

"Within five years, he drove a complete change in the way this organisation works.

He added: "We could do with another Ian, quite frankly, but I'm not sure they've cloned him."

Agence France-Presse