In a case of ‘too many reviews not enough respondents’, England’s Rugby Players’ Union has said that players will refuse to co-operate with a review being conducted by former England prop Fran Cotton at the behest of acting RFU chief exec Martyn Thomas, claiming they will only take part in research conducted by the Professional Game Board, which represents senior clubs and players.
Cotton's review started controversy after he publicly criticised team manager Martin Johnson, before the review's existence was announced. The PGB subsequently questioned whether Thomas, the driving force behind the appointment of Johnson after the 2007 World Cup, was the right man to commission any inquiry.
The RPA statement said: "Player feedback is provided in two formats. First, players have been given an RFU questionnaire to complete and return to the RPA. Secondly, the RPA has also been visiting clubs to talk openly with the players in order to get a clear picture of what happened on and off the field in New Zealand. The players have been extremely honest in their assessment of the unsuccessful 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign and they are adamant that England must be in the right shape mentally, physically and technically to mount a credible challenge to the 2015 Rugby World Cup."
The RPA added that the responses were being handled by an independent third party and would then go to the PGB. Rob Andrew, the RFU's professional rugby director, is feeding his findings to the PGB, as are the Premiership clubs.
Meanwhile confusion also reigns as far as the future of England manager Johnson is concerned. Srories emerged in the wake of the World Cup suggesting Johnson had been given an end-October deadline to decide whether he wished to continue in the role. According to Thomas, that was not the case.
"He was never, ever set a deadline." Thomas said, claiming he had asked Johnson, whose contract expires on December 31, "Do you wish to be reconsidered to be reappointed, or not?".
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