RFU chief John Steele vows to stay despite criticism

Chief executive John Steele has brushed off calls for his resignation over the Rugby Football Union's chaotic search for a new elite performance director.

Steele has come under pressure after he removed oversight of the senior England team from the job description.

But it was changed back following an emergency meeting of the RFU board.

"People who know me will tell you, when I set my mind to do something, as I have here, I will see it through," he told BBC Sport.

"When the hard times come we must not be derailed or distracted."

The RFU has struggled to recruit a performance director to stand alongside director of rugby operations Rob Andrew and development director Steve Grainger as part of a new management structure.

Steele, who was appointed in June 2010, had promised a "worldwide and multi-sport" search to fill the role,external-link but the process has since been undermined with the job specification changing twice and interviews for the post reportedly postponed.

His decision to remove England's senior team from the performance director's remit was seen as an attempt to block the possible return of 2003 World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Despite the RFU board, led by chairman Martyn Thomas, intervening to restore the original job specification, Woodward ruled himself out of the running for the role.

Former England captain Fran Cotton, who managed the British and Irish Lions during their series win over South Africa in 1997, has called for Steele to resign over the confusion.

While Steele admitted the search has not been conducted as he would have liked, he insisted that the speculation and criticism around the performance director role is out of proportion.

"I think anyone involved has been disappointed by the last few weeks, it is not what we want from our sport, there are no winners here, but it has happened and we need to make sure we understand why it has happened," he said.

"It is not a high-profile rugby supremo type role, it never has been," he added of the performance director role.

"It is a tiny part of the role, the main part of this role is about the women's teams, the junior teams, the sevens.

"It is all about what is happening behind the scenes, below the senior England team.

"There has been a lot of noise around this, a lot of it hasn't been objective and my job has been to put that aside and make sure the progress is right and to make sure we get the right person for the right job long-term."

Steele described his attempt to reform the RFU as "difficult" at times but added that he had been buoyed by events on and off the pitch since taking control in September.

"In my first weekend we saw the England ladies in the World Cup final, since then there has been a first Six Nations success in eight years,the women have had a Grand Slam, the under-20s have had a Grand Slam, we have had two English clubs [Harlequins and Northampton] in European finals," he stated.

"But beyond that within the organisation and out in the community we have seen a huge amount of passion for using 2015 [the year England hosts the World Cup] as a catalyst for positive change."

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