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RFU boss Bill Sweeney eager to shove English success up Steve Hansen’s nose

Steve Hansen

‘He basically said we didn’t have the systems in place for sustained success.’

English RFU chief executive officer Bill Sweeney has admitted that he is very eager to see ex-All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen proven wrong for a prediction he made about English rugby.

Sweeney has acted as the RFU’s CEO since May 2019, but he has a long history in sports administration, having previously been the CEO of the British Olympic Association, while he also held senior roles in sports brands Adidas and Puma.

During his time with Adidas, Sweeney came into contact with members of the All Blacks, as the German sports brand giant makes New Zealand’s kits, and one meeting has stuck out for the now-RFU CEO.

Sweeney explained in a wide-ranging interview with the Rugby Journal that a comment from then-All Blacks head coach Hansen has motivated him to do everything he can to see England succeed on the international stage.

Bill Sweeney on Steve Hansen’s England remark.

“I would always deal with them and their favourite restaurant was a Japanese restaurant in the centre of town and I was there one night with the likes of Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Steve Hansen,” Sweeney said of one meeting with the All Blacks in Nuremberg.

“At one point Steve stood up, raised his glass and made a toast, saying, ‘You are the only Englishman in here, and you won the World Cup in 2003, so fantastic, well done, but you will never win one again.’

“He basically said we didn’t have the systems in place for sustained success, we’re just not set up to continually win. We had a great set of players in 2003, but that’s it, we’ll never win again. And that’s what really stuck with me.

“I’d love to leave behind the best world-class, high-performance system in the world, one where we have always got a strong chance of winning a Grand Slam, and we are always going to be in the last four at the World Cup.

“And then I can shove it up Steve Hansen’s… nose one day.”

England’s attempts at a second Rugby World Cup triumph.

Although England have made it to two Rugby World Cup finals since they were crowned as world champions back in 2003, they were beaten by South Africa on both occasions in 2007 and 2019.

The Springboks were the favourites to win the 2007 final, having hammered England 36-0 in the pool stages of that tournament, but England were favoured to win the 2019 encounter, having convincingly beaten New Zealand in the semi-final.

South Africa proved to be far too good for them on the day though, as they beat England 32-12 to draw level with New Zealand by winning the Rugby World Cup on three occasions.

Still, Sweeney must have been happy watching on as England defeated Hansen’s All Blacks 19-7, before Eddie Jones’ men ultimately fell at the final hurdle.

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