September 25, 2022

This was the England coach opening up of his sporting and coaching philosophies, with a bit of footy thrown in there for good measure.

Eddie Jones believes English rugby may be suffering from too many of its’ top players coming from fee-paying schools and not having to deal with adversity.

The England head coach, who has been in place since 2016 and led the team to three Six Nations titles and a World Cup semi-final, is seeking to build a squad for the 2023 World Cup with a mix of new and old faces. England struggled in the 2022 Six Nations but ended their season with a Test series win over Australia.

During a wide-ranging chat with iNews, at Twickenham, Jones opened up on a key area that he feels could often hold back English sides. To Jones’ mind, many of the players that filter through to the national side are getting it too handy at private, fee-paying schools and struggle when real adversity comes banging on their door.

“If you have only been in a system where you get to 15,” said Jones, “you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow. Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything’s done for you. That’s the reality. You have this closeted life.”

“When things go to crap on the field who’s going to lead because these blokes have never had experience of it? I see that as a big thing. When we are on the front foot we are the best in the world. When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be.”

England head coach Eddie Jones pictured at Twickenham Stadium in 2021. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

‘The best teams are run by players’ – Eddie Jones

When it was put to Eddie Jones that England, with many private school graduates in their starting XV, won the 2003 World Cup, the Australian argued that ‘was just situational success’ and was not followed up at future tournaments.

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His first aim when he took over England, at the back end of 2015, was to give his players a basic game-plan that focused on forward pack strength and to get his men as fit as possible. It resulted in a 2016 Grand Slam and a retained Six Nations title in 2017, but he regenerated that squad with fresh faces for the 2019 World Cup.

While many in English rugby want Jones to be building for a World Cup and still pushing for Six Nations titles each year, the head coach is staking a lot on going all the way at the 2023 tournament. To that end, he will be leaning on players like Owen Farrell – despite outside critics – as he is a “warrior” and one of a core leadership group. He explained:

“There is this desire to be polite and so winning is seen as a bit uncouth – ‘We have to play the game properly, old chap’. I felt that culture was working against us when I arrived, 100 per cent. It’s never one thing, it’s the whole structure. Players are taught to be compliant. The best teams are run by the players and the coach facilitates that. That’s the key.

“Look at Manchester United. At some stage they had [Paul] Scholes, [Roy] Keane, [Gary] Neville, all those guys. The players ran the team and [Alex] Ferguson had iron-clad discipline that kept them all in line.”

For all the openness and joviality of Eddie Jones during that iNews interview, there was one question that considerably irked him.

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Jones was asked what southern hemisphere player – from The Rugby Championship sides – he would love to have on his England team. He snapped back:

“You are going down the wrong line here, mate. Talking some s*** now.

“None, mate. I’m not a fan, mate, so don’t ask me to answer questions like a fan, right? You want me to be a fan, get me after 2023. I don’t see the game that way. I’m here to coach England. I’m happy with what I’ve got.”

Jones did have a point, of course. Whatever player he said would have been a headline and would, in turn, irk the English stars that play in the same position.

Lesson learned for journalists ahead of future chats with Eddie Jones.

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