Rugby Union News
Last Updated: 06/12/22 6:54pm
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Eddie Jones has been sacked as England head coach after seven years in charge.
Jones’ exit, confirmed by the Rugby Football Union on Tuesday, comes following a dismal autumn series and leaves England searching for a successor for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, which is just nine months away.
The RFU said they would “conclude succession planning in the near future”, with former England captain and current Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick the favourite. Richard Cockerill is taking control in the interim.
England play just five competitive matches before their first World Cup group game against Argentina on September 9, starting with Scotland in the Six Nations in February.
England’s November campaign brought confirmation that they had endured their worst calendar year since 2008, as they posted a losing Test record for the first time since that year too: six losses, one draw, five wins.
This autumn, England finished with a 27-13 defeat to South Africa. That came after suffering a first loss to Argentina at Twickenham for 16 years (and anywhere for 13 years), beating Japan, and conjuring up a 25-25 draw with New Zealand from a position of 25-6 behind going into the final 10 minutes.
As sensational as that comeback was, though, reviewing the full Test reveals England’s performance was as poor as in the South Africa game, with their incredible three-try-salvo late on papering over all manner of cracks.
The last two Six Nations campaigns in 2021 and 2022, when England finished fifth and third respectively after losing three Tests in each, prompted formal reviews from the RFU, both of which Jones survived.
But the latest two-week review into England’s performance has led to his downfall.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the RFU said: “Following a review of the autumn, Eddie Jones has been dismissed from the position of England Men’s Head Coach.
“The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will now conclude the long-term work it has been undertaking on coach succession planning with changes set to be announced in the near future.
“In the interim, Richard Cockerill will take over the day to day running of the men’s performance team.”
RFU CEO Bill Sweeney expressed his gratitude for Jones’ work during his seven-year tenure, in which he boasted the highest “win ratio” of any England coach.
“It is important to recognise the huge contribution Eddie has made to English rugby, winning three Six Nations Championships, one Grand Slam and taking us to a Rugby World Cup final,” said Sweeney.
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“He has the highest win ratio of any previous England head coach and has helped develop the leadership skills of many players and coaches.
“I am grateful to Eddie for all he has done for England across many areas of the game and the professional way in which he has approached reviewing the performance of the team. He has provided the panel with astute insight and meaningful lessons that will support the team performance going forward.”
Upon his sacking, Jones wished England well for the future.
“I am pleased with much that we have achieved as an England team and I look forward to watching the team’s performance in the future,” said Jones.
“Many of the players and I will no doubt keep in touch and I wish them all well in their future careers.”
Speaking about the decision, RFU Chair, Tom Ilube said: “The independent review panel regularly updates board on its discussions and findings. We are fully supportive of its process and recommendations.”
Jones came in as a highly-regarded head coach after the disaster that was England’s home 2015 World Cup pool stage exit, and led them to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2016 and 3-0 series win in Australia that summer.
Aside from their run to the World Cup final in 2019, though, they have never reached such heights under the Australian again.
2017 saw sticky performances and a loss to Ireland en route to a title win, while 2018 proved an utter disaster, finishing fifth in the Six Nations after losses to Scotland, France, and Ireland at home, before losing a series in South Africa 2-1.
They threw away a chance to win the 2019 Six Nations after defeat in Cardiff, and rounded it off with a farcical 38-38 draw at home to Scotland after being 31-0 ahead, while 2020 saw them completely outplayed by France – although that campaign did end with a third Six Nations title of Jones’ reign.
Jones’ future has been under intense scrutiny ever since. In the aftermath of England’s defeat to South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Japan, the RFU set up an anonymous review panel, which has twice before been called upon to hold a series of meetings post-Test windows.
The first came after England’s 2021 Six Nations display, when they finished fifth after defeats to Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and the second after their 2022 Six Nations performance, when three more defeats to Scotland, Ireland and France left them some way off title contention.
Jones survived to remain in post on both occasions.
The loss to South Africa, however, in their final autumn Test confirmed England had endured their worst calendar year for 14 years. One more defeat can be added to that rotten record as well in the shape of England’s embarrassing 52-21 loss to a 14-man Barbarians side at Twickenham in June.
It left Jones and co to look back over an autumn series with very few positives, and one which prompted yet another RFU review.
Were it not for the last World Cup, it is highly likely Jones would have exited long ago. Therein lay the reason Jones continued to mention the next one perhaps.
In terms of who England will turn to next, three names have consistently done the rounds in recent months: Leicester Tigers head coach Borthwick, New Zealander Scott Robertson and Irishman Ronan O’Gara.
Warren Gatland was also mentioned, but the former British and Irish Lions boss opted to re-join Wales on Monday following Wayne Pivac’s sacking.
From three, that initial list can now read two, as O’Gara recently confirmed in his column for the Irish Examiner he had asked to no longer be considered: “[I’ve] informed the RFU to eliminate me from their consideration to be the next English head coach.
“I had contact from the RFU. It’s England. If you get offered a gig like that – and I wasn’t, to be accurate – then you have to give it due consideration until such time as someone else gets the job or you officially eliminate yourself from the race. That was done in a very amicable conversation this week; ‘I’m not sure if I am making your job easier or harder, but… etc etc’.
“No hard feelings, we may meet again.”
The latest news on O’Gara is he is likely to sign a new contract as head coach with La Rochelle – who he led to European Cup victory last season – through to 2027, taking him out of contention for after the next World Cup too.
Borthwick is the most-likely home coach option, and one whom the RFU could attain from Leicester if they so wished.
He has been with the Tigers ever since leaving the international scene in 2020 and has transformed them into Premiership Champions and he appears the favourite at this stage.
But, as someone who worked under Jones in the England set-up between 2015 and 2020 as forwards coach, would he change much to their style of play? Would he breathe new life into a set-up badly in need of a refresh?
Crusaders boss Robertson is well thought of, with his trophy-laden exploits at club level in New Zealand and attacking brand of rugby seemingly the perfect fit for any nation in Test rugby seeking a new coach.
Robertson has so often been seen as somebody to take over somewhere post the 2023 Rugby World Cup, however, and as a proud Kiwi, has his eyes on the All Blacks job no doubt.
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