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Premiership Rugby

Woodward to stay on until after RWC 2007

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The 47-year-old former Lions and England centre has been at the helm since the resignation of Jack Rowell in September 1997, and after an initially turbulent few years, has seen his side rise from fifth to first in the Zurich World Rankings.

Having had his team knocked out of the 1999 World Cup in the quarter-finals, his position was under question from some quarters, although the Rugby Football Union (RFU) stuck by their man.

Woodward oversaw a period of great frustration for English fans, where they narrowly missed out on the Grand Slam for four successive seasons, finally clinching the title in 2003 with a win in Dublin against an Irish team also going for the Grand Slam

Woodward said in a statement: "I'd like to thank everyone at the RFU, the Management Board, the Zurich Premiership clubs, but particularly the England players, coaching staff and management team for their partnership and support over the last four years, without which we would not be in the position we find ourselves in today.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed working as head coach and I look forward to continuing in the role to the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2007."

In his 65 matches as coach, England have won 47, lost 16 and drawn two, giving Woodward a win percentage of 72 percent, including their recent victories against Australia and New Zealand on their Australasian tour.

Graeme Cattermole, Chairman of the RFU Management Board said: "We're delighted to appoint Clive through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2007.

"It would have been inevitable that speculation would have grown about Clive's future before and during the World Cup in October and November. We wanted to end that quickly and acknowledge all the positive work he has done with the England side by extending his appointment for a further four years.

"He has done an outstanding job for England and taken the side to new heights, on and off the field.

"Clive's track-record over the last four years is superb, with 33 wins out of the last 37, 10 consecutive wins against southern hemisphere opposition and England unbeaten at Twickenham since 1999.

"Along with all England supporters, the management board has enjoyed seeing the progress Clive has made with the team, culminating in the Grand Slam this year and the unbeaten summer tour, and we will be offering him our full support throughout the Rugby World Cup."

Capped 21 times as a player by England, Woodward played the majority of his rugby with Harlequins and Leicester, as well as having a spell in Australia with the Manly club in Sydney.

He toured with the Lions in 1980 and 1983, appearing in two Tests in South Africa on the first trip, before being restricted to midweek matches on his next tour.

As a coach, he has looked after Henley and London Irish, as well as having a stint as Bath assistant coach before landing the England post at the age of 41.

Of the top five ranked rugby nations in the world, Woodward is by far the longest serving, having racked up six years already, while the coach of the No.2 side – New Zealand's John Mitchell – actually served as Woodward's assistant up until a few years ago.

By Mark Smith

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