Eddie Jones retains support as England identify reasons for Six Nations failure
Eddie Jones will remain as head coach after the Rugby Football Union’s inquest into England’s worst ever Six Nations performance gave full backing to the embattled Australian.
Jones presided over a fifth-place finish for the second time in his five-and-a-half-year Twickenham reign, plunging his future into doubt and triggering a debrief into why the World Cup runners-up had under-performed in such alarming fashion.
A statement released by the RFU confirmed “full support” for Jones, while “recognising a sub-optimal campaign and the factors that contributed to it”.
A review panel consisting of board members, executives and independent experts used feedback from players and coaches to help pinpoint a number of specific reasons explaining a dismal tournament that was bookended by heavy defeats to Scotland and Ireland.
The absence of Australian back room staff Jason Ryles and Neil Craig for pandemic-related travel reasons is described as a “significant loss” that had a wider impact, as was Matt Proudfoot’s pre-Six Nations unavailability after catching coronavirus and the domino effect on Jones being forced to isolate.
Also cited is the inactivity of the team’s Saracens spine following their relegation from the Gallagher Premiership, but at the same time a “wider group were fatigued as a result of being the only country to have back-to-back seasons”.
A handful of absentees also contributed to England’s woes – a reference to the injuries sustained by Manu Tuilagi, Sam Underhill and Joe Launchbury.
Completing the list of reasons for collapsing to the first ‘reverse Triple Crown’ of losses to Scotland, Wales and Ireland since 1976 are breakdown indiscipline, the stringent Covid protocols in place in camp that had an impact on cohesion and the fixed squad number of 28 players.
“We were all disappointed to finish fifth in the Six Nations,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.
“Our track record and results under Eddie meant that we, the players and our fans had much higher expectations.
“Sport is all about fine margins which is why every campaign debrief is invaluable in helping us to learn and improve.
“Eddie approached this review with a great deal of self-awareness and humility, allowing us to look at every aspect of the tournament to identify every small change we can make in order to improve.”
The investigation has called for a number of recommendations to be implemented ahead of the planned July Tests against the USA and Canada, which are to be staged in England
These include: additional support structures for coaches and players, additional refereeing input to provide technique improvement and an increased use of data and analytics in high performance.
And for the first time, the RFU has decided that external rugby experts will be brought in to “inform all future debriefs to provide additional insight and support for the head coach”.
“These external advisors will also be utilised after each campaign to provide regular reviews and support for the coaching strategy for future Six Nations campaigns and in the build up to 2023 World Cup.”
I’m confident our next team will come back stronger this autumn building up to a winning performance in the next Six Nations.
Finally, the RFU will forge a stronger relationship with England and the Premiership clubs, starting with a summer conference that will also include medics and referees.
It was found that “the overall feedback from the playing squad was positive and supportive and while the results of the tournament were incredibly disappointing, there were lessons to build on as well as moments of positivity”.
“During the Six Nations we were not up to our usual high standards and we recognise that,” said Jones, who is contracted until 2023.
“I’m confident our team will come back stronger this autumn building up to a winning performance in the next Six Nations.”