LONDON – England rugby chiefs gave their backing to coach Eddie Jones on Wednesday despite the side’s disappointing fifth-place finish in the Six Nations.
Ireland were crowned Grand Slam champions with a 24-15 victory at Twickenham on Saturday that condemned the hosts to a third consecutive defeat and their worst tournament performance since 1987.
“Eddie and his coaches have my confidence, and the measure of how good they are and can be will be how they respond to these tough times,” said Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown.
Jones was awarded a two-year contract extension in January, subject to performance at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“The results in the Six Nations were not what we wanted, not what we expected and there is no attempt by us to dress this up,” Brown said.
“Everyone is deeply disappointed. We will learn from this and make sure it doesn’t happen again. No one is patting each other on the back – they’re looking for solutions to put us back to where we were before.”
Prior to the Six Nations, England had won 22 out of 23 Tests under Australian coach Jones, only for successive defeats by Scotland, France and Ireland condemned them to their worst Championship display in over 30 years.
“It’s worth reflecting that Eddie has an 86 percent win record with England. You don’t become a bad coach or team overnight,” Brown said.
“Maybe we were not quite as good as our results were showing before, but we are not as bad as fifth in the Six Nations. That’s an important point... We go again and we will bounce back.”
England’s recent reverses have reopened the debate about whether their leading players should be centrally contracted by their national governing body, as happens in Ireland.
But there are 12 clubs in England’s top-flight Premiership compared to just four professional Irish provinces and Brown said: “People talk about central contracts in very binary terms, they describe one situation or another.
“What we actually have in reality is a sort of hybrid anyway, so there’s an element on central contracting that happens within that relationship when the players come into camp and into England space.”