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Another former England player has called out Eddie Jones

By Stefan Frost
Eddie Jones (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Luther Burrell has become the latest former Test player to criticise the coaching ethos of Eddie Jones after the England head coach publicly bemoaned the culture underpinning privately educated rugby players.

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Jones never seems far from controversy and his latest comments have sparked a reaction from all corners of the game. He provoked such a response by arguing that privately educated athletes do not face as many challenges on their way to becoming a professional, and therefore struggle to develop the leadership skills needed to compete on the international stage.

Burrell, who attended to a state school, took issue with Jones’ remarks, pointing out that these skills can be learnt throughout a career in rugby.

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“Leadership does not have to be in your DNA. Some of the best leaders do have it built into them and possess it because they have been in persistently adverse times,” Burrell wrote for the Mail on Sunday.

“Eddie has been England head coach for seven years. That’s a long time and long enough for him to have been able to try to create leaders within his group regardless of where the players have been educated or have come from.

“Has Eddie been allowing his players to grow into senior roles and to develop as leaders? My honest view is he has not.”

For Burrell, the constant finger pointing and incessant chopping and changing of backroom staff is at the centre of all that is problematic with Jones’ coaching methodology.

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“The England team is constantly changing year on year, not only with a big turnover of players but also coaching staff.

“Eddie should be looking at himself and the environment he creates with England for why his players might lack leadership. Instead, he is blaming other people and pointing the finger elsewhere, in this case at the private education system. I don’t think that’s totally fair.”

The out-of-contract centre believes the unsettled feeling this creates in camp is hindering player development, as each player lives in fear of taking a misstep.

“It’s a dictatorship. That is how I felt when I was part of Eddie’s set-up. That sort of environment doesn’t allow the players within it to grow and make wrong decisions, which is crucial.

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“No one wants to make a wrong decision, but rugby is never going to be a smooth process. The ability to make mistakes, learn from them and then correct them the next time around is crucial to the growth and development of both a player and the team as a whole.

Burrell Newcastle
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I’m not sure England’s players feel they can do that. They’re worried about making errors which could lead to them being dropped. They live in fear of Eddie.

“So too do his assistant coaches. That much is clear by the huge number who have worked in the England set-up under him and then moved on.”

Danny Cipriani is another former England player who has publicly criticised the English coaching tree in the last week.

“The reason Eddie is not getting the type of players he says he wants is because of the environment he creates with England. Eddie is a coach who does not like to be questioned,” Cipriani wrote for the Daily Mail.

Cipriani attended a private school, but did so on a sports scholarship and despite his opposition to Jones’ methods, he does think the RFU need to attract more players from diverse social backgrounds.

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“The game in this country does have a class and participation issue in that it does not reach out to enough children from council estates or state schools.

“There is a class bias shown at times. The result of that is talent being missed. This stems from the top of the Rugby Football Union and is not the fault of the schooling system.”

Burrell agrees with Cipriani and hopes more can be done to support state school rugby and boost the flow of under-privileged players up the ladder. To initiate this culture shift, Burrell wants rugby to shake off its aura of being a sport for the elite.

“The other day I was speaking to a guy who said he thought you had to be posh and have money to play rugby… We need to work to change that mindset. I’m certain we’re losing a lot of players because of it. If players like myself and Kyle Eastmond can come out of the areas where we grew up to become professional rugby players, then so can others.”

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