Eddie Jones will continue as the England head coach after the RFU issued its findings following a review into last month’s fifth-place Guinness Six Nations finish. There was speculation that the level of criticism heaped upon Jones and his England team might force him out of the job he is currently contracted to through to the 2023 World Cup in France.   

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Jones, though, has been given a vote of confidence by the RFU to now continue in his role, a job where he guided England to the 2019 World Cup final and followed that with Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup titles in 2020.

A lengthy RFU statement read: “The Rugby Football Union has concluded a debrief of the England Guinness Six Nations 2021 campaign confirming its full support and backing of Eddie Jones as head coach while recognising a sub-optimal campaign and the factors that contributed to it.

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“The debrief panel and input included RFU board members, executives and independent experts. The review was informed by feedback from players, coaches (past and present) and support staff as well as detailed presentations from Eddie Jones.

“Several recommendations will be implemented ahead of the July Test matches, which the RFU is working on with USA and Canada with a view to staging the games in England. These include: 

  • Introduction of additional support structures for coaches and players including enhanced sports psychology and programmatic leadership development starting in the pathway;
  • Additional refereeing input to provide technique improvement and awareness during player preparation and development;
  • The use of data and analytics in high performance and campaign management is increasing and to support this approach – England Rugby will continue to work with Premiership Rugby with the objective of identifying and introducing one common data system across the pathway and elite performance game. This will be vital to monitoring and developing emerging talent in the pathway as well as being an additional tool to manage player welfare;
  • The RFU will ensure external rugby experts inform all future debriefs to provide additional insight and support for the head coach. These external advisors will also be utilised after each campaign to provide regular reviews and support for the coaching strategy for future Six Nations campaigns and in the build-up to World Cup 2023.
  • To evolve its strategic approach to the game, the RFU aims to deepen its alignment between England performance and professional clubs. This will start with a proposed summer conference for England, professional clubs, referees and medics to find common ground and goals for the English game moving forward. Discussion points will include the increasing speed of the game, decision making, data and analytics, refereeing, player development and welfare.
  • The panel recognised the overall feedback from the playing squad was positive and supportive and while the results of the tournament were incredibly disappointing there were lessons to build on as well as moments of positivity.”
  • RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said: “We were all disappointed to finish fifth in the Six Nations. Our track record and results under Eddie meant that we, the players and our fans had much higher expectations. Sport is all about fine margins which is why every campaign debrief is invaluable in helping us to learn and improve. Eddie approached this review with a great deal of self-awareness and humility, allowing us to look at every aspect of the tournament to identify every small change we can make in order to improve.”

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    Jones added: “During the Six Nations we were not up to our usual high standards and we recognise that. The debrief was a valuable process. We all learned a lot from the experience and most importantly we have identified actions to enable the team to move forward positively towards 2023.

    “I’m looking forward to the summer tour which will provide a great opportunity to see more of our emerging talent and I’m confident our next team will come back stronger this autumn building up to a winning performance in the next Six Nations.”

    The RFU statement continued with a list of findings specifically related to what went wrong with results in recent months. “The panel concluded that while there were a number of contributing factors that led to England’s disappointing fifth-place ranking in the Six Nations and the focus will be on addressing these systemic challenges, there were some specific factors that had an influence on the 2021 Six Nations tournament as follows:

    • Coaching – the absence of Jason Ryles and Neil Craig were a significant loss in coaching expertise and team support, this had a significant impact on the wider coaching team. The initial unavailability of Matt Proudfoot and the isolation of Eddie Jones also had an effect on the effectiveness of the coaching team;
    • Player preparation and availability – several players did not have enough game time going into the Six Nations.  Conversely, a wider group were fatigued as a result of being the only country to have back-to-back seasons; resulting in players having no mental break from one season to the next. In addition, a handful of notable players were unavailable;
    • Breakdown indiscipline – improvements required including lower body strength and appropriate skill modifications;
    • Covid – the necessary stringent protocols, in some cases greater than other Unions, had a significant impact on coaching and support staff as well as the playing squad cohesion;
    • Squad transition – the agreed protocols, which the RFU and Eddie were fully supportive of due to Covid challenges, meant fixed squads prevented players coming in and out during the campaign as they would normally.”

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