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Left: Eddie Robinson: Right: Ian Ritchie

The date was September 26, 2015, and it ended badly for Ian Ritchie the CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the national governing body of the sport. England, the host nation of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, had been eliminated from advancing to the quarterfinal round after losing to Home Nation rival Wales 28-25 in Twickenham.

The unexpected, the unthinkable, the now unacceptable outcome had occurred; mighty England, with Pool A losses to Australia and Wales, would not move on in the Rugby World Cup, which it had organized.

A pall of despair hovered over Albion. For the previous two-years, English men and women had watched the progress of the event unfolding, proud of the thousands of native volunteers who would make the tournament a success. And part of that pride came from the expectation that the home side would, at minimum, make it into the final four teams. England won their first RWC in 2003 in Australia, and, four-years later, they finished second to South Africa in Paris.

The grumbling on that September 2015 night was loud and vocal; the leadership at the RFU should shoulder the blame for England’s disastrous loss. “Bring us the head of Ian Ritchie.”

What followed from that calamity represented a remarkable turnaround of respect for the beleaguered CEO that stemmed from one decision post RWC 2015; Ritchie hired a new coach, Eddie Robinson, and the rest of the narrative is positive history.

Jones, the former coach of Japan that registered the Test match upset of all time, Japan’s victory over South Africa, took the reins of an English XV smarting from their RWC loss. Starting in February 2016, England reeled off eighteen straight wins (tying New Zealand for most consecutive Test victories) that included back-to-back Six Nations championships with Grand Slams (i.e.; defeating all five opponents), and winning three matches against Australia away on tour, a historical feat never accomplished before.

Ritchie, aged 63, recently announced his retirement from the RFU, which will take place this June after England tour Argentina. He leaves the organization in a significant cash positive position, after having generated a $760 million windfall from the 2015 RWC, and $350 million from the RFU’s eight-year deal with the Premiership League.

In addition, Richie witnessed a 500-school increase in rugby played at state secondary schools after the 2015 RWC, which will increase to 750 by Japan RWC in 2019.

Ritchie served five-years from 2012 to 2017. The former CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Wimbledon) proved he could succeed at rugby as well.

The RFU is in a more robust position due to his stewardship.

And most importantly, England, currently ranked number two, have restored the confidence and affection of their rugby rugby fan base,