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From a rugby fan's perspective the resignation of Sir Clive Woodward is a big blow. Not only has he been a figurehead for the sport but also the key component in transforming the way English rugby viewed itself in the World order.

This time last year heading into the World Cup, having secured back-to-back victories over Australia and New Zealand, England were in perfect health to commit an all out assault on the game's golden challis.

But since then Sir Clives “Dads Army” of a squad has slowly disintegrated. The loss of Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Jason Leonard and now Lawrence Dallaglio means that Sir Clive was faced with a totally different challenge: that of creating a new base on which to build a team capable of winning both the World Cup and, in the short-term, the Six Nations Championship.

For Sir Clive it might have brought back uneasy memories of 1998, when a rookie England side were battered by Australia 76-0 on the ill-fated “Tour of Hell”. Five years later he had created the perfect rugby outfit and his success culminated in the Rugby World Cup Final.

But nine months is a long time in rugby. Last November who'd have thought that South Africa would be 2004 Tri Nations Champions and that the much-demonised Corne Krige would be leading Northampton out at Franklins Gardens next season?

But Sir Clive was (and is) something of a rarity: the most un-English of English coaches. His style of management dictates doing “a hundred things one percent better than everyone else”.

England's World Cup venture was helped by a large back-up staff that included a team lawyer (which was not as wacky as some suggested when the 16-man fiasco in the Samoa game occurred). He insists on getting everything right.

His years at Manly in Australia certainly helped, too, especially when the Aussie press last year barracked his team for being a Jonny Wilkinson one-man band. Preparation was key and despite some shaky performances (notably against Wales and Samoa) England pulled through because Woodward had a belief in his team.

Is this part of the reason for him stepping aside now? Or is he looking for a greater challenge, having already told Business Life magazine that his real passion is football?

One thing is for sure: English Rugby has lost its Alf Ramsey. By leaving now Sir Clive will depart as a legend. His timing could have been better but he is a driven man. Once you scale Everest what do you do next? The answer is just around the corner and judging by the sort of man Sir Clive Woodward is, it's likely to be a very big challenge indeed.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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