Sir Clive Woodward rules out return to RFU

Former England boss Sir Clive Woodward has ruled out returning to the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Woodward had been tipped to become the RFU's elite performance director.

But on Thursday Woodward said: "I would like to formally confirm that I will not be attending any interviews for this position.

"I am totally committed to my role as director of sport at the British Olympic Association and deputy chef de mission for Team GB in London 2012."

Woodward's announcement comes as the latest development in an increasingly fraught saga surrounding the process to find a new elite performance director for English rugby union's governing body.

And the latest about turn was met with scathing criticism from ex-England coach Dick Best.

"They've taken the biscuit this time, made so many U-turns it's embarrassing," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"[You] can't write a job description, change it [and] upset everybody. Why bother speaking to Sir Clive if you don't want him?

"If you want him, go out and get him because he's the best man for the job. This job description was made for him and then they changed it and quite rightly he went ballistic."

Only last week an emergency board meeting voted to instruct chief executive John Steele to reverse his decision to downgrade the performance director role to exclude any involvement with Martin Johnson's England team.

The original job description for the role included a reference to responsibility for all representative teams, up to and including the senior team.

Steele's decision to water down the role had been seen as a move to block Woodward's involvement, but after the board's vote to reverse the decision, the 2003 World Cup-winning coach was seen as the favourite to take the job despite not having formally applied for the position.

However, he has now publicly ended his interest in the job.

The former England boss said there had been "considerable speculation" concerning his possible return.

He confirmed that he had held "informal conversations" with senior RFU figures, with the full knowledge of the BOA, but had never formally interviewed for the role.

"May I wish the RFU all the best in its search to find the appropriate candidate for this very important role for English rugby going forward," he added.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Martin Johnson, his coaching team and all of his players every success, but especially for this year's World Cup in New Zealand which all rugby fans are so looking forward to."

Meanwhile, the RFU attempted to draw a line under the damaging episode, issuing a statement insisting that it was Woodward's "prerogative" to rule himself out.

Referring to its recent recruitment drive., the RFU Statement said that "at no time have we publicly commented on individuals who may or may not have been involved.

"We have continued to pursue that confidential approach for the performance director search, although it has not proved so straightforward," added the RFU.

"If a potential candidate wishes to rule themselves out, as indeed others have done, then that is their prerogative and it would not be appropriate for the RFU to discuss that person's decision.

"We have been clear that the performance director process moving forward is under review by the board."

BOA chairman Lord Moynihan said the announcement was "welcome news" for British athletes ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

"The work Clive and his sport team are doing is critical," added Moynihan.

Andy Hunt, BOA chief executive and Team GB chef de mission, echoed Moynihan's words.

"Clive understands exactly what it takes to deliver under intense pressure," he said.

"He is a highly respected voice in our preparation and I am proud to have him as a member of our team and as one of our deputy chefs de mission."

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