England rugby boss Eddie Jones insists he doesn’t fear the sack
Head coach hopes team will end poor run of results in upcoming matches against Springboks and All Blacks
A defiant Eddie Jones has said he doesn’t fear for his job ahead of England’s quartet of internationals next month - but acknowledged that if his squad doesn’t a register a win, he may well be looking for fresh employment.
“We don’t need to win any of them,” said Jones of the matches against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
“If we don’t win any, I’m probably not going to be here… if they [the Rugby Football Union] come and tap me on the shoulder tomorrow and told me I wasn’t in the job then so be it.”
The Australian added that he hopes England don’t reach the end of November without a win but insisted that he is more concerned with their performance in the long term.
“Of course we want to win every game but the reality is that sometimes you don’t,” he explained. “What’s important is that you keep moving forward and sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t tell you you’re moving forward...
“What I’ve learned about World Cups is that the only time you need to be at your best is at the World Cup. All the leading up to it is sparring, practice rounds, getting combinations right. So as long as we’ve got in our head that we know what the team is - and we do - then we’ll be all right.”
But as critics will point out, England have been moving backwards, not forwards, for the past 18 months. They were at the zenith of their powers in the summer of 2016, when they whitewashed Australia in a three-Test series down under. But since then England have been regressing, and it’s not just injuries that are to blame.
Jones’s persistence in selecting the likes of Mike Brown (full-back) and Dylan Hartley (captain and hooker) has mystified many. The duo have never been world-class and are now the wrong side of 30.
Then there’s his refusal to consider Danny Cipriani for selection, as well as his obstinacy in overlooking the claims of Dave Attwood and Don Armand, both of whom have put in strong performances this season playing for Bath and Exeter respectively.
Asked about the omission of Cipriani, Jones said: “At the end of the day, it comes down to a judgement. So people think he played well, well maybe I don’t think he plays that well. And that’s a judgement and we’re all entitled to judgement, and at the moment my judgement is the most important judgement.”
His readiness to select foreign players with the most tenuous of English qualifications - such as Brad Shields and Nathan Hughes - has also caused consternation, and there are reports that his coaching style is another source of friction within the squad - which may explain why England have won just one of their last six internationals.
World Cup woes
Were they to lose all next month’s matches, Jones’s position would come under further scrutiny, notwithstanding the absence of 12 players with injuries.
Anything less than a return of three wins from four will further undermine Jones’s authority and deepen concern among the England fans that their team will struggle to get out of a World Cup pool that includes France and Argentina.
What the papers say about the England squad
The Times: “There is much to disagree with in that squad: no Danny Cipriani, no Don Armand, no Dave Attwood and still no idea why.”
The Guardian: “His England set-up is one huge question mark. The public remain confused as to why he still refuses to select certain individuals - Danny Cipriani, Don Armand, Alex Goode - who continually rate among the Premiership’s most in-form and influential players.”
Daily Mail: “Eddie Jones is playing fast and loose with England’s future by turning his stubborn Australian back on [Cipriani] one of the most gifted rugby footballers not only in this country but the world.”
Independent: “The picture is very, very blurry right now... if England fail to click against the Springboks and, more importantly, the All Blacks, an embarrassing climbdown to recall Cipriani could well be on the horizon.”
England’s 36-man squad
- Forwards: Tom Curry, Charlie Ewels, Jamie George, Dylan Hartley (co-captain), Alec Hepburn, Ted Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Zach Mercer, Ben Moon, Ben Morgan, Michael Rhodes, Nick Schonert, Brad Shields, Kyle Sinckler, Elliott Stooke, Sam Underhill, Harry Williams, Mark Wilson
- Backs: Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, Nathan Earle, Owen Farrell (co-captain), George Ford, Alex Lozowski, Jonny May, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Manu Tuilagi, Richard Wigglesworth, Ben Youngs
Rugby union autumn internationals
Fixtures and start times (all times UK)
- 3 November: Japan vs. New Zealand (5.45am); Wales vs. Scotland (2.45pm); England vs. South Africa (3pm); Ireland vs. Italy (10pm)
- 10 November: Italy vs. Georgia (2pm); Scotland vs. Fiji (2.30pm); England vs. New Zealand (3pm); Wales vs. Australia (5.20pm); Ireland vs. Argentina (6.30pm); France vs. South Africa (7.45pm)
- 17 November: Italy vs. Australia (2pm); Wales vs. Tonga (2.30pm); England vs. Japan (3pm); Scotland vs. South Africa (5.20pm); Ireland vs. New Zealand (7pm); France vs. Argentina (7.45pm)
- 24 November: Italy vs. New Zealand (2pm); Scotland vs. Argentina (2.30pm); England vs. Australia (3pm); Wales vs. South Africa (5.20pm); Ireland vs. USA (6.30pm); France vs. Fiji (7.45pm)