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Friday 19th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

Departing chief praises current Leinster boss for ending ‘civil war’ in RFU

Ian Ritchie said yesterday that he has “no regrets” over hiring Stuart Lancaster, insisting the former England head coach helped end civil war at the Rugby Football Union.

RFU chief executive Ritchie will retire at the end of the summer, with the governing body putting together a “high-quality shortlist,” according to chairman Andy Cosslett, as it sets about recruiting a replacement.

Ritchie accepted England’s abject failure at the 2015 World Cup — which signalled the end of Lancaster’s stay before Eddie Jones took charge to huge success — as the biggest regret of his tenure.

But the 63-year-old believes current Leinster coach Lancaster’s England reign helped build the best-ever relationships between the RFU and the English clubs.

“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,” Ritchie said.

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

Having arrived at the RFU in a moment of crisis, Ritchie found himself battling the fallout from the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand that had seen Mike Tindall embroiled in a dwarf-throwing row and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry on the Auckland harbour.

Cosslett hailed Ritchie and his regime for transforming “a union at war with itself,” and Ritchie, who passed up the chance to pair Nick Mallett and Wayne Smith in favour of appointing Lancaster — initially on an interim basis — in December 2011, stands by that call.

“Of course you think about that, of course you think … and hindsight’s a wonderful thing,” Ritchie said.

“Stuart is a highly talented, highly committed coach.”

Under Lancaster, England became the first hosts in World Cup history to fail to progress from the tournament’s pool stages in 2015.

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

Asked if England’s performance at that tournament would remain the abiding regret of his RFU tenure, he replied: “Without question.

“As a regret, a home World Cup, not getting out of the pool stages, of course, it was huge.

“We thought it would be the chance of a lifetime and it didn’t happen. And that’s it.”