Robinson to lead England to rugby World Cup

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Head coach Andy Robinson has been assured he will lead England into the 2007 World Cup, despite presiding over a remarkable decline in the team’s fortunes since taking over from Sir Clive Woodward…

 Francis Baron, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, described Robinson’s position as "fireproof", although he does expect changes to be made to the backroom staff as England prepare to defend the trophy they won in Australia two years ago with Woodward at the helm.

"We are not a soccer club where a guy’s job is on the line because a couple of results go wrong," Baron said.

"Andy Robinson is contracted through to the next World Cup. He is a fantastic bloke, a great manager, a great coach and it is down to him to take us on from the Sir Clive Woodward era."

Woodward handed over to his former assistant Robinson with England ranked as the best side on the planet.

But injuries, most importantly those which have sidelined Jonny Wilkinson, and the retirement of stalwarts of the 2003 team such as former captain Martin Johnson, have made life difficult for Robinson.

Defeats by Wales, Ireland and France left England fourth in the last Six Nations tournament and Robinson’s men are now ranked only 6th in the world.

But Baron is confident the coach can construct a successful new team in his own image.

"Over the next year you will see his coaching team evolve into the Andy Robinson team and the Andy Robinson way of doing things," he said.

"For England this is a very important season. Nobody in the RFU is happy with our current position, ranking number six in the word and none of us believe our performances and results last year are of a level England should attain and our supporters deserve."

The RFU is seeking to boost England’s chances of retaining the World Cup – a feat no country has ever achieved – by putting leading players on central contracts, allowing them to concentrate more on international rugby.

The plan would put England on a level playing field with the southern hemisphere countries but it faces opposition from clubs who rely on players like Wilkinson to retain the interest of fans and television viewers.