Sir Clive Woodward's temporary replacement on Tuesday began the process of stepping out of his predecessor's sizeable shadow by signalling a more emollient approach to rugby's club versus country dispute.

Andy Robinson sought to repair the damage done by Woodward's parting assault last week on the Zurich Premiership's directors of rugby by stating: "Bridges have to be built and the only way is by talking with and meeting people. It's about myself and the coaches meeting all the directors of rugby and building relationships. There will be disagreements but that's what happens."

He indicated he was prepared to live with the elite player scheme governing the release of players for England. This had been dismissed by Woodward as "useless".

A former Bath and England flanker, Robinson was named as acting England head coach last week and is thought to have every chance of securing the job on a permanent basis. He will make his case to the committee charged with appointing a permanent successor next week. On Tuesday he underlined his aspiration to the top job by appearing at his first press conference as acting head coach in a suit rather than his habitual tracksuit.

He will have been pleased to hear Francis Baron, the Rugby Football Union's chief executive and a member of the appointment committee, describe him as "in pole position" for the job.

The challenge for the new man is restoring England's fortunes following their anti-climactic post-World Cup displays. These have brought five defeats in their last six matches. The new coach will be expected to bring a rapid end to this depressing run in November's three internationals against Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Though Woodward's former deputy, Robinson acknowledged shortcomings in England's post-World Cup play. "We have become too narrow in our focus and need to widen our approach," he said. "We need to loosen the shackles and become excited about the way we do things."

Robinson argued that back play needed to improve, not only in the England team but in the Premiership - although he had been very encouraged by the quality of the Sale-Leicester match at the weekend: "The first time in awhile I've seen new ideas."

* Woodward's position as chief coach for next summer's British Lions tour to New Zealand, thought in some quarters to have been jeopardised by his resignation as England coach, was confirmed on Tuesday night after a special meeting of the Lions committee in Dublin.

Bill Beaumont, committee chairman and tour manager, said: "The committee continues to be fully committed to the appointment made earlier this year. Clive is the most qualified man to coach the Lions and will be taking the squad to New Zealand next summer." The decision was endorsed publicly by the other committee members - Noel Murphy (Ireland), David Pickering (Wales) and Gordon Dickson (Scotland).

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