Eddie Jones: RFU set to make decision on future of England head coach

Colin Newboult

2HN16NC Rome, Italy. 13th Feb, 2022. Eddie Jones Head coach of England during the Six Nations 2022 trophy rugby match between Italy and England in Roma, Olimpico stadium, Februari 12th, 2022. Photo Antonietta Baldassarre/Insidefoto Credit: insidefoto srl/Alamy Live News

England head coach Eddie Jones is meeting with Rugby Football Union (RFU) chiefs on Monday as he seeks to save his job.

Although the governing body have not made a final decision, it is expected that the Australian will be relieved of his duties just nine months out from the Rugby World Cup.

Planet Rugby understands that Jones is resigned to his fate and that England will have a new boss in place for the global tournament in France.

The Red Rose have endured a dreadful 2022, culminating in a very poor Autumn Nations Series which saw them succumb to Argentina and South Africa.

Steve Borthwick a leading contender

Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick is currently the favourite to replace him, although quite how that will work going forward is unknown.

His club are undoubtedly keen for Borthwick to stay, while it is unclear what will happen after the World Cup with the RFU already sounding out talented Crusaders boss Scott Robertson.

Should Jones depart and the Leicester head honcho come in, it would mean major upheaval with the World Cup under a year away.

The 62-year-old has paid the price for his team’s poor form in 2022, with England winning just five of their matches over the past 12 months.

Jones, who has a 73 per cent win record with the Red Rose, has always insisted that the target has been the World Cup.

If the former South Africa assistant coach does depart, though, it will be because of the team’s recent form.

However, Jones’ media advisor David Pembroke insisted that the focus on the global tournament was a “co-designed plan” between him and the RFU.

“The co-designed plan with the RFU does talk about winning the World Cup and an 80% win record. Every game is important. Every time you pull on the England shirt it’s a big deal. The expectation is not lost on us,” Pembroke told The Times.

“Maybe the communication has not been right. I take some responsibility for that. It should have been a much more narrow focus and left the World Cup stuff for down the line. Lesson learned.

“Clearly, there’s a sense of unhappiness inside the fans and inside some very influential voices, who feel that it’s gone off the rails. But I don’t see it that way at all.

“I’m not sure the nuclear option is the best one, particularly a bloke who’s been at World Cups, won gold and two silver and won three Six Nations, maybe a fourth coming. I’m very optimistic and I do pray he gets the opportunity to finish the job.”

Bullying accusations

Many have criticised Jones’ methods, with reports coming out that the England camp is particularly tough.

There has been a significant turnover of staff with coaches rarely staying long under the Australian’s guidance, which has led to accusations of bullying, but Pembroke disagrees with that assertion.

“I would 100% say no (he’s not a bully). I’ve worked with him for 20 plus years. That’s a pretty harsh allegation to make. And I would very, very strongly refute that,” he said.

“There’s enough people around in that high-performance environment – Neil Craig, Richard Hill and other senior people – that I’m sure wouldn’t let that take place.

“I’m sure that the players wouldn’t let that take place.

“He is one of the best coaches in the world in any sport. You have someone like Mikel Arteta saying ‘I listen to Eddie Jones’. I don’t think very, very good coaches are bullies.

“They are unrelenting. They set the highest standards, they demand the highest of standards. They demand resilience. They’re testing people all the time. He has brought a ruthlessness to the game that England didn’t have.”

Pembroke admits that England have struggled since the last World Cup but is confident that Jones can turn it around.

Still World Cup contenders

“No one’s going to say this team is firing on all cylinders. They’re not. But they will. They will if everyone holds their nerve and stays the course,” he added.

“This is absolutely a World Cup winning team. I do hope he gets a chance to finish the job.

“At the moment he is trying to play a slightly different way to make the team competitive at Rugby World Cup. I think he’s a much better coach than he’s ever been.

“And I don’t see any lack of enthusiasm, lack of curiosity, lack of drive, lack of anything to suggest that he has run out of puff. He hasn’t run out of puff. He’s been in France doing his recce and he is going hard at it.”

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