England coach Eddie Jones believes New Zealand Rugby have a serious challenge ahead of them to retain their status as the world’s greatest rugby nation.
Jones – who has argued that New Zealand is the world’s leading rugby powerhouse, despite South Africa’s World Cup triumph – has also noted that several difficulties are mounting for rugby in this country.
In his autobiography My Life and Rugby, Jones wrote that New Zealand Rugby are currently “facing many challenges”.
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“They have begun to lose lots of players in their prime as huge offers roll in from France, Japan, England and Ireland. They will cope but it is increasingly difficult for them,” Jones wrote.
“The question of what the All Blacks jersey is worth will come into sharper consideration as the Euros, pounds and yen pile up.”
That fact is not lost on departing NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew, who listed that factor as one of the challenges for his successor, Mark Robinson.
“The two big things are the finances of rugby and the battle we have against the big economies, there’s no question that continues to be an issue,” Tew told the Radio Sport Breakfast.
Tew also listed several other battles that NZR have to overcome to ensure that rugby in New Zealand continues to grow.
“Remaining relevant, particularly at the participation and the fan engagement level is not getting any easier. Kids are more and more impatient about what they’re going to do with their leisure time.
“We’ve still got a battle at World Rugby to be a voice, we’ve still got a battle to make sure the future of the game in the Asia-Pacific region is stronger.”
However, despite noting that troubles lie ahead, Jones believes that NZ Rugby’s All Blacks-centric approach is the right one to take.
“All their resources are poured into the objective of improving the national team. That priority has now been copied by most tier-one nations – with England being the exception.
“The challenge and complexity of coaching England is different. Unlike New Zealand, rugby is not the national sport, but it is a growing and important game. The structure doesn’t help and pits club against country. A cultural reticence also inhibits the rise of natural leaders in English rugby. When players move from club to national team, the links are hard to break. In Australia, it was easy. In England, it has been one of my most difficult tasks.”
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