Rob Howley insists Clive Woodward is still the man to lead the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand and reckons a break from rugby could even be good for the ex-England coach.
The former Wales captain says English rugby is on the brink of crisis after losing Rugby World Cup heroes Lawrence Dallaglio and Woodward within days of each other, but Howley, aiming to make his third successive Lions tour next year, believes Woodward is the mastermind to topple the All Blacks; even if he does launch a new career in football.
"It will be to the Lions' benefit that Clive will not have a foot in both the England and the Lions camp when it comes to preparation and selection," said Howley. "I know Graham Henry found it particularly difficult to do two jobs at once in 2001. He had to do a big job for Wales but also get things in place for the Lions.
"Instead Clive will now have time to travel up and down the country, as well as going to Ireland, Wales and Scotland to watch players and make his plans. He will go to New Zealand as probably the best prepared coach the Lions could hope for.
"It is a huge blow for England because he has done a fantastic job for the last seven years and questions must be asked at the top. I know Lawrence retired in order to spend more time with his family and there will always be a long line of quality players coming through, but when you lose your captain and coach in the space of a week, you have to wonder what is going on."
Howley, who underwent surgery on his right wrist in the summer, remains hopeful of making it a hat-trick of Lions tours after touring South Africa in 1997 and Australia in 2001 and has pencilled in September 21st for the crunch date. He said: "That's hopefully when I will get the cast off my wrist and get the all clear to resume full-training, then my season will start."