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Jones blames public schools for building 'compliant' rugby players

By Ian Cameron
England Head Coach Eddie Jones takes a junior training session during a England Training Session at King's House School Sports Ground on May 24, 2022 in Chiswick, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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England head coach Eddie Jones has implied English rugby’s reliance on private schools has led to a less resilient culture amongst the nation’s elite rugby players.

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In a wide-ranging interview with i News , Jones told Kevin Garside that he believes the public schools system builds ‘compliant’ rugby players that can’t respond to adversity on the field.

Jones is in the middle of transitioning England’s attacking shape ahead of the Rugby World Cup next year and despite coming off the back of a successful 2-1 win over the Wallabies in Australia, the 62-year-old made no bones about how where he sees flaws.

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“They are good, tough players. They work hard but they only know what they know. If you have only been in a system where you get to 15, you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow. Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything’s done for you. That’s the reality.

“You have this closeted life. When things go to crap on the field who’s going to lead because these blokes have never had experience of it? I see that as a big thing. When we are on the front foot we are the best in the world. When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be.

“There is this desire to be polite and so winning is seen as a bit uncouth. We have to play the game properly, old chap.”

Jones also suggested that England’s 2003 World Cup success, built off the back of the very same ‘public schools’ system, was a one-off that came despite the prevailing culture.

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“Yeah but that was just situational success wasn’t it? There has been nothing to follow that. I felt that culture was working against us when I arrived, 100 per cent.

“It’s never one thing, it’s the whole structure. Players are taught to be compliant. The best teams are run by the players and the coach facilitates that. That’s the key. Look at United. At some stage they had Scholes, Keane, Neville, all those guys. The players ran the team and Ferguson had iron-clad discipline that kept them all in line.”

Jones sees the lack of popularity of rugby among children in a non-formal setting is holding back the sport.

“It’s the way the players are educated. I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve never seen kids in a park playing touch football [rugby]. Never. Zero. In the southern hemisphere they are all doing that, developing their skills. Here you see them playing football, but never touch football. That’s the problem. It’s all formal coaching, in a formal setting, in public schools. You are going to have to blow the whole thing up at some stage, change it because you are not getting enough skilful players through.”

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