Oval Talk

Perfect timing and combination for RFU review

McGeechan, left, with the Lions and Keen with a track cyclistThe announcement by the RFU last week that it had appointed Sir Ian McGeechan and Peter Keen to undertake a full performance review of the state of the English game could not have come at a better time.

It also, to paraphrase part of RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie's comments, is an alliance of two of the most experienced and proven experts in their respective fields, and creates genuine belief and excitement with regards the benefits for England's 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign and beyond.

McGeechan's rugby accolades, knowledge and general nous is well known and highly regarded and his ability to dig into the bowels of the English elite set-up will serve up the best possible evaluation of its current state. It will also produce a solid and expansive forward plan for the continued development and preparation required to accomplish the most immediate goal: 2015.

The arrival of Keen is an astute move from the RFU and a hugely encouraging indication of just how all-encompassing this review will be. The former UK Sport performance director's record speaks for itself, with a large portion of the credit for Team GB's medal hauls at both the Beijing and London Olympics having been laid at his door.

The fact the RFU has decided to look to someone with such a hands-on method of working means English rugby fans can rest assured that this initiative is a wholehearted one, and not something that merely appears to be placating those voices agitating for a more structured approach to performance analysis and management.

Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said recently of Keen that the 47-year-old was "the cog in the middle of the wheel that drives the high-performance system". Public opinion varies greatly on whether politicians and sport mix, but Robertson managed to emit a savvy appraisal of Keen's importance and ability in one swift sentence.

Also of great encouragement was McGeechan's revelation shortly after last week's announcement that the remit he and Keen would have for conducting their review would be an open one. No performance-related areas will be off limits, as the pair pick apart completely the way things work.

With Stuart Lancaster in charge the prospects look good for England. The head coach is considered and thoughtful and will receive suggestions from McGeechan and Keen in the most receptive of manners — he was after all recommended for the England job by McGeechan — and all signs point towards the performance review playing an integral and crucial part of England's constantly evolving RWC2015 campaign.