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Bill Sweeney insists he is right man to lead RFU despite members’ rebellion

Bill Sweeney has insisted he is the right man to lead the Rugby Football Union despite the swirling chaos around Twickenham, claiming that “we are on the cusp of something quite spectacular”.

Last week Sweeney faced down a rebellion from 30 RFU council members who had signed a resolution challenging his leadership and raising fears over the union’s financial position. It was the latest in a string of setbacks in the past 12 months including the demises of Wasps, Worcester, London Irish and Jersey Reds, the shambolic handling of the tackle height, a £40m shortfall in this year’s budget and the refusal of the council to allow him to appoint an independent adviser to oversee governance reforms – tantamount to a show of no confidence.

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Sweeney, however, has sought to pin the blame on his predecessors, highlighting years of mismanagement since the 2003 World Cup triumph. Speaking publicly for the first time in more than nine months, Sweeney said: “I personally feel I am [the right man to keep leading the RFU forward], given my experience, given my background, my balance of business and sport, I feel I am the right person to do that.

“I do believe that we are on the cusp of something quite spectacular here. This has been a unique moment in time, because of the financial challenges, because of the working relationship with PRL [Premiership Rugby], our ability to change that relationship around the partnership, to fix the things that have stopped us winning Six Nations championships on a regular basis.

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“To have more consistently performing England teams. The work that we’re doing in World Rugby around Nations Cup, the global calendar, that all plays into this as well. And I feel that I have the energy, that I’ve got the passion and I’ve got the desire to see this through.”

Sweeney is currently engaged in talks with Premiership Rugby over the next Professional Game Partnership which will aim to address a domestic system he claims is broken. Pointing to how England have won just four Six Nations titles since lifting the World Cup in 2003, he added: “We need to fix a number of issues that have been broken for some time. We know how the English game has been structured and how it has gone. There are certain issues attached to that which have been persistent and have been structural which need to be addressed if we are going to get things done.

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“We have won four Six Nations and one World Cup in 20 years. That is not what you would expect from us as an organisation. Regardless of what happens at this year’s World Cup, wherever we end up, the system has to change. The opportunity around the professional game partnership is to bring the elite game together to make sure we can thrive and to make sure we have consistently competitive teams and we don’t have boom and bust periods when it is more based on hope.”

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