Martyn Thomas, the former Rugby Football Union chairman, says Clive Woodward should have been given the job rather than Lancaster

Martyn Thomas, the former Rugby Football Union chairman, who was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to England, says he warned the governing body that Stuart Lancaster was not the right man for the head coach’s job.

Thomas was chairman of the RFU for five years – and latterly the chief executive as well – before departing near the end of 2011, prior to Lancaster’s ­appointment.

He is also convinced that England would be contending to win the World Cup final at Twickenham on Oct 31 had he succeeded in bringing Sir Clive Woodward, the mastermind of the 2003 triumph, back to head up elite rugby.

Instead, England became the first side to be knocked out in the pool stages of their own World Cup. Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief exe­cutive, has begun a review of England’s campaign, which could led to ­Lancaster being dismissed despite having been awarded a six-year contract extension last year.


Ritchie is understood to be receptive to input from outside the Twickenham staff, including former coaches such as Woodward and former players.

“The overriding emotion for me has been one of profound frustration at a lost opportunity,” Thomas, who now runs his family farm in Carmarthenshire, told Telegraph Sport. “I am not going to see another home World Cup in this country again and an awful lot of other rugby fans won’t either.

“The country got behind the team massively, but I’m sad to say they were let down. I remember the open-top bus parade in 2003, the Cup going on tour and the huge feel-good factor there was. It would have been on a different scale to that this time and we blew it.”

Thomas left the RFU at the end of November 2011 after being threatened with disciplinary action for, it was said, leaking information to the press and having “inappropriate contact” with a candidate for the role of performance director, believed to be Woodward.

Read more on Telegraph