Wednesday 17 July 2019

RFU backing Eddie Jones but demands improvement for World Cup

England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville
England head coach Eddie Jones. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Mick Cleary

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has unequivocally backed Eddie Jones to take England through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, but has warned there will be a change of head coach if that tournament ends in the same disappointing way as their Six Nations did.

Jones was granted a two-year extension to his £750,000 deal just prior to the championship.

RFU chief executive Steve Brown insisted he had no regrets about that, although he did acknowledge a performance-related break-clause would be activated if England performed as poorly as they have done over the past seven weeks.

It could, however, get worse than three successive losses, with a three-Test series in South Africa in June and a game against world champions New Zealand at Twickenham in November.

"If Eddie is not successful, and England are not successful, there is no contract after that (the World Cup)," said Brown.

He said there had been no discussion over Jones's position, even though England's fifth place was their worst finish since 1983.

"We were not at all early (in awarding the contract extension). It was the right thing to do and we stick by it," he added.


Brown also acknowledged there may have to be a debate over how elite rugby is structured were the World Cup campaign to end in failure, even though he did express his faith in the eight-year deal that was struck with the clubs only 18 months ago.

He said: "It might be a knee-jerk reaction if you were to shift into a different solution, but it's probably worth thinking about.

"We need to let this agreement play out to the World Cup. That's what it's been drawn up to do and then we'll see how things go from there. It has been working extremely well and I think we have to be very careful to make any changes to it."

Brown met with Jones for an hour at Twickenham yesterday morning as a scheduled review of the 2018 championship got under way, with the England coaching staff all in attendance.

Jones will then present those findings to the RFU board next Wednesday, with a further presentation to the Professional Game Board in early April.

Brown was at pains to point out that he and Jones have to face accountability at various turns, although he did also indicate that "the first person that puts Eddie straight is Eddie".

"The buck stops with me and I'm responsible for all the people at the RFU and (even if there were a director of rugby) I'd still be responsible," said Brown.

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