Five questions from England’s Six Nations review

Date published: April 22 2021

Eddie Jones’ future as England head coach was jeopardised by a fifth-place finish in the Six Nations that compelled the Rugby Football Union to investigate the reasons underpinning such a dire outcome.

Here are the key questions surrounding Twickenham’s inquest.

What is the verdict?

Jones has been given “full support and backing”, with the RFU declining to make a single criticism of its head coach of five-and-a-half years. Chief executive Bill Sweeney promised a “brutal” review, so the absence of any censure of the veteran Australian – at least publicly – is a surprise given he had presided over emphatic losses to Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

So is it a whitewash?

It certainly confirms that there was never any prospect of Jones stepping down. Instead of a robust appraisal of the 61-year-old’s methods, a number of reasons for the “sub-optimal” performance are given. These include injuries, the team’s Saracens spine being under-cooked, all other players being over-cooked, breakdown indiscipline and the extensive Covid protocols in camp that made shaping a cohesive squad very difficult. In the RFU’s statement, Jones has been spared any responsibility.

Why does he retain Twickenham’s loyalty?

Jones’ win rate of 77 per cent is higher than any of his predecessors’, including World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward. Sweeney is a steadfast ally and believes that he remains the best man for the job, knowing that he successfully led England out of a similar slump in 2018 and has won the Championship three times in six years. Furthermore, some of the Covid-related issues arising from the Six Nations can not be laid at Jones’ doorstep.

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Will there be any changes to his coaching team?

It appears not. There is no mention of his assistants John Mitchell, Matt Proudfoot, Jason Ryles and Simon Amor beyond how Proudfoot and Ryles were affected by Covid in different ways. Instead, a number of recommendations are made that address what are described as “systemic challenges”.

What happens now?

Planning continues to bring the summer ‘tour’ to North America to these shores, with the RFU hoping to play Tests against the USA and Canada at Twickenham. In a Lions year the summer is usually an opportunity to blood new talent but the Six Nations performance means Jones will have more players available than he might have expected. However, he will still look at a handful of uncapped prospects for the 2023 World Cup before the serious business of an autumn campaign against Australia, South Africa and an emerging nation begins.