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'100 per cent I'm coaching well': Jones fights corner at debrief

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images)

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Eddie Jones insisted on Sunday morning from Paris that his England team are just “three per cent off” where they need to be to become successful, adding that he “100 per cent” believes he is currently coaching well despite a second successive Guinness Six Nations campaign that delivered just two wins in five matches.   

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It was last Thursday morning – March 17 – when a note was circulated via email by the RFU that Jones would host an 8am local time Zoom call on Sunday morning to debrief the media on his latest Six Nations, the seventh of his lengthy tenure at the England helm.

This access turned out to be far more enlightening than what took place less than an hour after the 25-13 Stade de France loss, Jones refusing to answer questions over his future after England signed off on a second successive two-wins-from-five matches campaign. 

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Back in the Game – RFU
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Back in the Game – RFU

“That is not a question I need to answer,” he said at the time about a position he is contracted in through to the end of the 2023 World Cup. “I just do my job. It’s a question for other people to answer. I am not even thinking about that.”

Fronting the media again some eight hours later in an effort to control the negative narrative following his England team’s third campaign in five years where just two matches were won, Jones continued to insist his future wasn’t a topic that he needed to address. 

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“That’s not a question I need to answer. The only thing I am focusing on now is preparing for Australia,” he reiterated, looking ahead to 16 weeks’ time when the three-Test series versus the Wallabies opens for England in Brisbane on July 9.

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Post-game Jones had suggested his performance as head coach hadn’t been good enough, stating: “I obviously haven’t done a good enough job, I accept that.” However, that position was sharply revised in the cold light of day on Sunday morning, Jones instead insisting he is coaching well and that his team is very much on an upward trajectory.  

“Am I pleased with the job I am doing? I am not pleased with the results. Do I think I am coaching well? 100 per cent I think I am coaching well and sometimes you don’t get the results. I have coached for long enough to know this is all part of rebuilding a team and rebuilding a team at the international level is a complex and intriguing project.

“Particularly when you are coaching a team like England where the expectation is so high you don’t get any latitude when you are bringing young players through. They tend to be more inconsistent as they learn their craft at international level but I couldn’t be more excited about the prospects for this team.” 

Does Jones plan on meeting with RFU CEO Bill Sweeney in the coming week? “That is not my concern,” he continued regarding his status as England boss. “My concern is to coach the team really well and the only thing I am worried about now is preparing for Australia.”

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Did he have a message, though, for England fans dejected with this year’s results? “I only have one forum and that is you guys, so I am doing my best now,” he quipped about getting the upbeat message out there that all is far from lost for his team.

“They [the fans] have got to have some faith. I have done a reasonable job for England over the last seven years. We are going through a period now where we are rebuilding the team and it takes time. Look at the French team, it took them three years to win the championship. 

“We have rebuilt the side from the last Six Nations. I think the progress is very positive. The results aren’t the results that we would like, we would all like to be winning tournaments and we would all like to be at the top of the table. We are not quite good enough to do that now but within the next twelve to 14 months when we prepare for the World Cup we will be.”

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Sipping coffee and wearing an England tracksuit on the breakfast time call with in excess of 25 journalists listening in, Jones went on to explain that his dawn message to the 28 players with him in Paris before they headed home would be very different from the cull he signposted at a brutal morning meeting in Dublin twelve months ago following a campaign-ending loss to Ireland. 

“Completely different situation, mate,” he reckoned. “I can’t question the effort and spirit of the team. I thought throughout the Six Nations it was outstanding but there are areas of our game we need to improve and there is probably a three per cent gap between where we are and where we need to be.

“That three per cent comes from a lot of hard work, a lot of dedicated focus work in certain areas of our game, certain areas to build in our game and if we do that we are going to be in a good position. So much more positive for England than twelve months ago.”

What areas does that three per consist of? “I don’t have the exact answers right at this moment but if I look at the Six Nations as a whole one of the things we did really well was attack well up until the 22 and then our attack breaks down consistently around that 22.

“It was too consistently turned over whether the attack line thickens and our support play wasn’t good enough, so we definitely need to improve our support play and we need to improve our finishing. 

“If I just look at yesterday’s game we got in France’s 22 seven times, they got in our 22 five times but they executed at 80 per cent, we executed at about 45 per cent and that is the difference in the scoreline. So how do we improve that finishing? 

“Again, it comes through some hard work. We have got a nine, ten and 15 that have played 26 tests between them and they will be much better for this learning experience and we have got to make sure we keep faith in them because they have got great potential.

“We didn’t get the results and we would have liked to have been higher than third. Our aim was to win the tournament but there is also a lot of things to be positive about. The development of the team is going in the right direction, with a number of good young players coming through.

“The amount that the players have learnt during the tournament is immense and I have never been so excited about the development of the team. 

“We have got eleven Tests before the World Cup and if you look at that, that means Freddie (Steward) and guys like that, Marcus (Smith) and Harry Randall are going to increase their Test experience by 100 per cent in that period so there is a great learning experience for them. The timing for our team going to the World Cup is very good, very good.”

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