English rugby chiefs are adamant Eddie Jones’s position as head coach is not under threat and he has not lost the dressing room despite a run of five successive Test defeats including a 2-0 series loss in South Africa.
The Rugby Football Union has issued a short statement confirming their support and RugbyPass has been told that Jones’ future would only come in question if England suffer a nightmare run of defeats in their Autumn Tests against New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Japan, the Rugby World Cup hosts in 2019. Those matches will come less than a year away from the start of the tournament which England looked set to enter as the second best team in the world.
England will drop from fourth place to sixth in the World Rugby rankings following their latest defeat, which puts them perilously close to the No.8 position they were in when Jones took over as head coach in the wake of the 2015 World Cup disaster.
Jones will take comfort from the start of England’s football World Cup campaign tonight which will deflect some of the media attention off his mis-firing team, who face a third and final Test with South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
The head coach will deliver his post-tour report to Steve Brown, the RFU chief executive, whose expertise is in financial rather than playing affairs. Brown is also under pressure with the mounting costs of updating the Twickenham East Stand forcing job cuts at the Union’s headquarters and a reported ending of the £50m planned investment in artificial pitches.
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Of more significance will be Jones’s appearance before the Professional Game Board in July where he will face questions from all areas of the professional game in England with the number of injuries suffered during training with the national squad also high on the agenda.
RFU insiders insist it is “too premature” to talk about Jones being in danger being axed and they point out that finding a successor just a year away from the World Cup would pose serious problems with very limited pool of potential candidates. England are getting closer to announcing a replacement for Harlequins bound Paul Gustard as defence coach but they are still looking for a full time attack coach to help Jones.
The head coach is feeling the heat and admitted: “It’s just like when I took the team over that couldn’t make it out of their World Cup pool,” he said. “This is the job of the coach, to find a way to turn it around. I am always under pressure. As England coach, you are always under pressure. I haven’t had too many times when I have experienced this and it’s tough.”
“No one likes to lose five games in a row. We have been through an exceptional period and now we’re going through this tough period. It is painful; extremely painful.”
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