Eddie Jones’ book is released today and, while there’s no doubt it’ll make for interesting reading, how it’s been allowed to be published is beyond me.
I’m sure players have it written into their EPS agreements that they aren’t allowed to write a book for a certain period of time after their last game for England and they even have to get permission to write a column, for example, but the current head coach is allowed to write a book with details from the 2019 World Cup campaign in it.
It’s very different for Warren Gatland, who has just come to the end of a 12-year spell in charge of Wales. Jones is still very much the head coach, has a contract for another two years and is possibly staying on until the next World Cup.
It’s a sign of the complete autonomy that he seems to have, which is perhaps a product of him taking over at a time when England were at their lowest ebb after exiting their home World Cup at the pool stage.
He’s just led them to the final in the next one so most people won’t complain too much about him writing a book but it does have the potential to destabilise the squad.
He admits in the book that he “made two selection mistakes for the final” and it might be difficult to disagree with that with the benefit of hindsight but it’s easy to be wise after the fact and what impact will voicing that opinion have?
“I should have chosen Joe Marler ahead of Mako Vunipola at loose-head prop and I should have reverted to the Owen Farrell–Manu Tuilagi–Henry Slade midfield we used against Australia. George Ford could have come off the bench when we had got into the game,” he adds.
Mako Vunipola and George Ford aren’t going to say anything publicly because they want to carry on playing for England but I’d feel pretty dejected if I was them and heard my current coach saying that about me.
It’s not a massive leap to interpret those words as Eddie Jones saying we’d have won the World Cup if he hadn’t started with Vunipola and Ford. That absolutely isn’t the case. I think we’d have lost that final with any team because of the way South Africa played on the day.
A lot of players came out and made comments in the wake of the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, which didn’t go too well for England, and the players are being censored to an extent as a result.
It doesn’t sit well with me that a player can’t say what he wants but a coach can write a book and say whatever he wants.
Jones has also voiced concerns that some Saracens players may want to play for their club rather than their country in the wake of the salary cap scandal and that it could cause friction in the England camp if they are there.
I can’t see it causing a rift in the squad. There’ll be banter flying around but I don’t think it’ll upset the applecart. You don’t have to like everyone you play alongside and I just can’t see any players from other clubs having any grievance with those from Saracens.
As for the conjecture that some Saracens players may choose to play for their club rather than join up with England, I don’t think that would be allowed and if it were to happen, I don’t think they should be able to play for England again.
I don’t think it’ll be the case because of what it means to play for your country, and of course the not insignificant financial incentive on top, but it obviously can’t be allowed to happen.
If a Saracens player did take that point of view and was allowed to, Leicester would be wanting Manu Tuilagi and co to play for them instead of England, Bath might feel they need Anthony Watson back and Joe Launchbury might be needed by Wasps, for example.
The last time Saracens would have been relegated with a 35-point deduction applied is over a decade ago in 2008/09 as well, so it shouldn’t even be necessary.
Eddie Jones obviously has strong links to Saracens too, having been head coach there around a decade ago, so there would be questions raised about his integrity as well.
There would be uproar across the Premiership, it would devalue the Six Nations and Saracens would also lose some of the financial compensation they get for having players away on international duty as well, which they can ill afford. I’d be shocked if it were to come to pass.
I applaud Eddie’s honesty and I also completely understand his desire to make some money by writing a book so I don’t blame him too much, even if some of the content might have the potential to rock the boat, but I just can’t believe he’s been allowed to publish it.
I think the RFU have made a mistake in signing off on it and there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and the Six Nations but it’ll be fascinating to see if there is any impact from any of this on the pitch or in the corridors of Pennyhill Park.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.