Ritchie relishing Argentina Tests

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie believes England’s forthcoming tour of Argentina offers head coach Eddie Jones a great opportunity to test the depth of the squad.

England take on Argentina twice in June with 15 players away with the British & Irish Lions.

However, England will take a 31-man squad to Argentina with 16 uncapped players among it and Ritchie says it is right for Jones to do so.

“It’s fascinating looking at the squad,” said Ritchie.

“We talk about leadership and mentoring and there is a fantastic mixture of youth and experience. It’s an opportunity for Eddie to be, quite rightly, radical and different and look at that depth.

“I have total trust in Eddie’s selection policies. Argentina and the Barbarians are going to be fascinating and interesting games – in different ways. After that Eddie will learn even more about players.”

Ritchie, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, also paid tribute to the volunteers, staff at the RFU as well as players during his five years.

“Every time I visit a rugby club I am enormously impressed by volunteers who day in and day out for nothing other than the love of the game devote their time to the sport,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with the players, from the England men’s team through to the women and the sevens. What a joy they have been to work with and what fantastic ambassadors for the game.”

'Bring it on'

Ritchie, 63, joined the RFU in February 2012. Under his leadership, the RFU has delivered record revenue and investment into professional and community rugby. 
In this time, England teams have won three Grand Slams (men in 2016, women in 2017 and U20s in 2017) and four world titles (women in 2014, U20s in 2013, 2014 and 2016). The England men’s team won back-to-back RBS 6 Nations Championships in 2016 and 2017.

Ritchie oversaw the successful delivery of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England and negotiated the Professional Game Agreement with PRL this year, worth over £200 million to Premiership club rugby in England over the next eight years with the aim of making rugby in England the best in the world for club and country.

He also described the 2019 World Cup draw as exciting with England pooled with Argentina and France as well as two nations yet to be decided.

“It’s challenging but that is what a World Cup is all about,” he said.

“I can only echo what Eddie has said, ‘bring it on’. We aspire to be a World Cup winner. We aspire to be the best in the world, therefore you have to play those other teams who are the best in the world in order to get there.”