SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England must hire South Africa Rassie Erasmus

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: For as long as I can remember the RFU has been far too cozy, it needs shaking up if England are to win another Rugby World Cup… it’s left field, but they must hire South Africa’s genius coach Rassie Erasmus

  • England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup last week by South Africa
  • Rassie Erasmus has now guided his team to two successive World Cup finals 
  • And the Springboks will take on New Zealand on Saturday’s massive final  
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

The RFU should be looking at the South African and New Zealand coaching boxes on Saturday night with envy but also with an eye on trying to entice one of them as director of rugby. 

I’ve long advocated for English rugby to employ someone of real stature, gravitas and quality to that role. 

For me, one of the fundamental reasons why the game in our country is still in such a precarious position is because the RFU lacks exactly that right now. 

Between Rassie Erasmus, Ian Foster and Joe Schmidt, there are some fascinating contenders. 

I’m sure all of them would covert the position as long as they were able to operate as they see fit. For as long as I can remember, the RFU has been far too cozy. It’s an old boys’ club which is slowly but surely bringing rugby to its knees at all levels. 

Rassie Erasmus’ South Africa will take on New Zealand in the final of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night in Paris 

Erasmus will come up against All Blacks head coach Ian Foster (pictured) in the coaches box

But the RFU may be looking to the coaching box during Saturday’s game at two potential coaches who could one day succeed Steve Borthwick (pictured)

It needs really shaking up if England are to ever win the World Cup again. The question I’d be asking the old boys at Twickenham is were they genuinely pained by England losing the semi-final to South Africa? 

Or, were they relieved Steve Borthwick’s side made the last four as it probably means they can keep their positions for another four years? 

Whether or not they have the bottle to appoint a quality director of rugby will give you the real answer. Let’s start with Erasmus. He would be the most controversial after some of the stupid stunts he has pulled over the years. 

But he would also be my No 1 choice. He’s caused incidents which I’m sure he will look back on with regret. But this World Cup has made me see Erasmus in an entirely different light. Erasmus can’t change the past. 

And I’m not condoning what he’s done, in particular his shameful treatment of Wayne Barnes. But he has shown with South Africa that he is absolutely superb at what he does. 

We don’t know whether Erasmus is staying with South Africa or moving on. I take my hat off to him for the way he’s coached South Africa alongside Jacques Nienaber. 

Not only did he lead the Springboks to the 2019 World Cup, they are now just one win away from making it back-to-back wins. South Africa face New Zealand in Saturday’s final in Paris. 

Erasmus has taken his team from a low ebb to the brink of being double world champions. He’s done it by being his own man and using unorthodox thinking. Orthodox thinking is a curse in professional sport.

More than anyone, the RFU really could do with some unorthodox thinking. South Africa are now a better side than they were in 2019 which is no mean feat.

The tournament in France has been littered with examples of Erasmus’ genius. I was genuinely annoyed when I saw South Africa call a scrum from a mark against France because it was genius and something I had never thought about. 

That one action said everything you need to know about Erasmus. Then there was Cheslin Kolbe’s charge down of a Thomas Ramos conversion in the same game. That missed two points for France arguably won South Africa the match. 

Erasmus also substituted Manie Libbok after 31 minutes against England. These were all huge calls. But Erasmus has the courage of his convictions. And, of course, he’s led a South Africa team that has revolutionised the use of replacements by bringing on his ‘bomb squad’. 

I applaud Erasmus for all of the above. South Africa have named seven forward replacements for the final with New Zealand. Willie le Roux is the only reserve back. It’s arguably a big risk. Kolbe will be covering scrum-half if Faf de Klerk is injured. But Erasmus doesn’t look at these sorts of decisions through a negative lens. 

Erasmus (right) has now guided the Springboks from a low ebb to the brink of being double world champions 

New Zealand coach Joe Schmidt is another possible contender to take the next England job

Ronan O’Gara is another coach who could take charge of England after Borthwick

He really is a breath of fresh air. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility him joining England. It would certainly get the fans talking in the pubs! And that’s what the game needs.

We’ve seen rugby in England struggle so badly both on and off the pitch, especially in the last 12 months. As England’s director of rugby, Erasmus would have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. It would not work if he wanted to still be in the coaching box. Borthwick must still be that man. 

It’s not a big call as long as it is the role Erasmus wants to play. For me he really might fit the bill. I would love to see him there. At the other end of the spectrum you have Foster and Schmidt. I’ve been really pleased for Foster. 

He’s acted with a lot of dignity while taking some serious heat as All Blacks head coach. Cool heads have prevailed, as has his trust in his players and coaches. He’s held his nerve and could walk away from the All Blacks with the World Cup. 

His decision to hire Schmidt was very clever and has clearly paid off. Again, it says much about him. Between Foster and Schmidt, the All Blacks have made the right calls on selection, particularly in how they deploy key playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Beauden and Jordie Barrett. Schmidt’s knowledge of the northern hemisphere might just give him the edge. 

But I would argue both he and Foster have the temperament and maturity to build relationships with Borthwick, Premiership Rugby, fans, and the English rugby media whilst being a catalyst for much-needed change. 

With Scott Robertson set to take charge of New Zealand and Andy Farrell committed to Ireland, the other candidate I would consider bringing into English rugby is Ronan O’Gara. 

The Springboks have shown their brilliance defeating both France and England to reach the final, but were bested by Ireland in the group stages

But South Africa will come up against a powerful All Blacks side led by No 7 Sam Cane (middle)

He likely still sees himself as a head coach rather than a director of rugby. But with England in need of discovering a real entertaining and attacking game, I would love to see the RFU make a play for O’Gara. 

I have massive respect for South Africa and New Zealand Rugby. But I am disappointed the two teams competing for the trophy are once again the southern hemisphere giants. 

This was supposed to be the World Cup where the north delivered. Instead, it’s more of the same. Whatever happens, the name of either New Zealand or South Africa will be on the World Cup trophy for the fifth straight tournament. 

I would have loved to have seen a northern hemisphere final. But these two sides deserve to be there. It’s two rugby powerhouses going toe-to-toe. 

The whole of New Zealand and South Africa will stop to watch this game. New Zealand have got every chance. I think they’ll win a huge fixture by a whisker. 

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