Ex-England coach Clive Woodward has asked serious questions about the RFU’s recent decision to award Eddie Jones a contract extension through to the 2023 World Cup in France. The Australian’s extended deal was confirmed on April 2 having been agreed earlier in the year, but England’s 2003 World Cup-winning coach has now questioned this renewal from a number of perspectives.
Writing in his latest dailymail.co.uk column, Woodward queried the timing of the contract extension due to the game being in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic and because Jones was initially contracted through to 2021 anyway. “Everything seemed rushed and cosy to me.”
He also expressed concern whether there was anyone within the RFU capable of asking Jones the really tough questions and properly scrutinising his decisions.
“It [the extension] came just as the coronavirus crisis was kicking in and the financial implications for grassroots rugby were becoming apparent. It did not sit at all well. With the game in lockdown, I don’t understand the timing,” outlined Woodward.
“Announcing that Eddie is to become the best-paid coach in history while other nations and clubs are on the verge of bankruptcy seemed insensitive, at best… that was a story that didn’t play out well in the current climate.”
Woodward feared the Jones extension would also ruffle feathers at grassroots level within England. “Before the coronavirus crisis, rugby was making headlines for the wrong reasons on this topic. It is a problem that will not go away and, unless resolved, it will drive a wedge between players, clubs and the RFU. Ultimately, those losing out will be fans and the junior game that support the rugby pyramid.”
The columnist then moved on to critiquing the Jones operation and wondered whether it really had improved from the week of the World Cup final where he alleged England lost focus in the build-up to the defeat to South Africa.
“England lost focus in the week of the final. Was there analysis at the RFU as to why they played so poorly in the final or why they went to Japan with only two scrum-halves and five props?
“What scrutiny has there been to affirm his decision since the end of the World Cup. And has the recent Six Nations provided enough evidence to take this step?
“Everything seemed rushed and cosy to me, especially as Eddie was contracted to the end of next season anyway. There should have been more questioning.
“Under the radar last autumn, Conor O’Shea was brought in as director of performance rugby, which is a role I don’t understand. Does Eddie answer to him in any way? Does O’Shea have any input on playing matters? Do these guys challenge Eddie’s thinking in the way a top coach needs to have his thinking examined to sharpen his thought process?
“There needs to be somebody at the RFU scrutinising Eddie’s rugby calls and, at the very least, acting as an experienced sounding board. Is there nobody who can eyeball Eddie and test his selections and tactics in private?”
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