Jonny Wilkinson has backed Brian Ashton to remain as England rugby union coach after hailing his man-management skills and ability to enable players to perform "without fear".
Ashton’s current contract with the Rugby Football Union expires on December 31 and he has made it clear he wants to remain in the role and build on England’s achievement of reaching the 2007 World Cup final in France.
The RFU are set to make a decision on his future in the next couple of weeks but fly-half Wilkinson has no doubts about Ashton’s ability to take England forward.
Wilkinson, part of the England side voted team of the year at the BBC Sports Personality awards, said: “I am a big fan of Brian. I have been ever since I got involved with him around 1998-1999.
“He has always been a guy that can take the game forward. He can create an atmopshere and also release players into being fully ambitious and really daring to go out and play as opposed to fearing failure and that is so important nowadays.
“You can only go on what you’ve seen and the guy has taken us to the World Cup final and he has taken the game forward in what was a tiny, tiny space of preparation.
“We had a matter of a couple of months to get ready for the World Cup. If the guy can have that sort of affect in such a short period, then he is worth his salt.”
Wilkinson added: “Brian’s man-management skills are fantastic. He keeps you in the know, he goes to you with advice but listens as well to what you have to say. He ensures you are comfortable and happy but also makes sure you know what is going on.
“From a coach, that’s what you need at this level. There is enough pressure flying about out there on the pitch with having to do your job against opposition trying to ruin things and trying to fit all your plans and moves in out on the field.
“The last thing you need is anything but 100% collabaration off it and that’s what Brian gives you. He has got ambition, that ability to make you feel comfortable which allows you to stop fearing failure.”