England rugby on the right path

Wed, 30 Jan 2013 20:55
Large ian mcgeechan bath 630 Large ianritchie Large chris robshaw and stuart la

A thorough review of the Professional Rugby Department by Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen found England rugby to be in a healthy state.

A thorough review of the Professional Rugby Department by Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen found England rugby to be in a healthy state and in need of “accelerated evolution, not revolution.”

The objectives of the review were to assess the structure and function of the support services and the performance pathway for players into the England team.

McGeechan and Keen conducted in-depth interviews with a broad range of stakeholders, including: England players, RFU staff, coaches and support staff from leading Premiership clubs.

Keen explained: “My task was to apply the same analysis to England rugby as I have to other sports striving to be the very best in the world. What I found compared favourably with some of the very best practice I have observed in Elite Sport. I have been impressed by the quality of the people, their thinking and their actions.

Keen added: “I have also been struck by the strong values and culture of rugby. Although areas for change and improvement have been identified, these align well with the momentum already building towards the 2015 World Cup. England rugby needs accelerated evolution, not revolution.”

McGeechan noted: “The strength of relationships between the clubs and the RFU is paramount for the professional game in England to develop fully. We have spent many months talking to a wide variety of people on this very subject, and it is clear that great strides have been taken in this area, particularly with the coaches.

“The collaborative relationships must continue to be strengthened for the good of the game, so that everyone benefits. This integrated approach, across every facet of performance, will create a thriving base of professional players. From this base a strong club game, and even stronger international game will continue to evolve so all the games inherent potential is realised.”

RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said: “I am very grateful to both Ian and Peter for being so thorough and for spending so much time analysing the various aspects that surround and underpin England performance. Both are acknowledged leaders in their respected fields of expertise, and it is heartening to hear we are in a good place. We are, however, determined to provide greater clarity and focus to the performance pathway and these recommendations will help us deliver that.”

The prognosis was as follows:

A team and sport in good shape with a bounty of young talent, with ambition to explore the limits of their abilities. The sport is blessed with committed, able people.

The demands of club and country are a challenge. England players spend a large proportion of their time with their clubs and consequently close collaboration with all stakeholders is crucial to their development.

The primacy of a successful England team was an almost universally held view. This should not be underestimated.

From a performance perspective, the RFU has all the component parts but the structure is complicated, both internally and externally.

There is no dedicated ‘fit for purpose’ National Training Centre, which is a barrier to the alignment of all England senior and age grade team activities, as well as the development of coaches and wider continual professional development (CPD) opportunities.


The current Professional Rugby Department should be focussed into two areas; International Performance and Professional Rugby. Both will report directly into the CEO.  

An International Performance Department will be created, to include the senior and age grade teams, Sevens and women’s teams, concentrating on preparing players for senior international rugby. Recruitment for the Head of International Player Development, which will be a key role within this department, will commence soon. With the need for a clear, co-ordinated pathway in mind, this department will be headed up by Stuart Lancaster.

The Professional Rugby Department, led by Rob Andrew, working closely with International Performance, will be responsible for the Regional Academy Programme, professional competition structures, Medicine, Sports Science, Anti-Doping, Coach and Referee Development and critically the relationship between Premiership clubs, Championship clubs and the RFU. This would include the renegotiation of the Heads of Agreement, which is vital to the healthy future of the England teams.

Develop a National Performance Centre that will provide the world’s best developmental environment for players and staff. The RFU should aim for it to be operational within 12 months of the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2015 to take advantage of the momentum gained.