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Woodward takes pop at former Ireland player in latest rant on Jones

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has returned to a favourite theme of his in his latest broadside on Eddie Jones – the theory that the Australian is not being held to account by the RFU.

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Woodward has often claimed that there is no one experienced enough to criticise Jones within the organisation, including current CEO Bill Sweeney.

This time however Woodward has also directed his ire at a former Ireland fullback and colleague – current England director of performance Conor O’Shea.

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“Ahead of a huge game with South Africa on Saturday, this England side have been distracted yet again by more headlines about Eddie Jones,” wrote Woodward in his Daily Mail column. “I cannot believe the RFU keep allowing it to happen. Clearly there is no one there who understands top-level international sport and especially rugby, which in itself is bizarre.

“This week, Jones’ name was front and centre in the media but not because of his role with England. It was for all the wrong reasons. There has been lots of talk about what Jones is going to do after England and the latest team he has been linked to is the USA on an eight-year deal.”

“It is the latest example which shows why Bill Sweeney and Conor O’Shea are totally out of their depth at the governing body. It is a shame the select committee for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport did not have time to question them yesterday about the way our international team is run.

“If you believe Sweeney and O’Shea, a review has been done a couple of times but only by people who do not wish to be named! There are some things you just cannot make up.”

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Woodward goes as far as describe Sweeney and O’Shea as being in his ‘pocket’.

“They do not stand up to Jones. They nod when he tells them to nod. He does what he wants. Frankly, Jones has both Sweeney and O’Shea in his pocket.”

Presumably, Woodward feels only a World Cup-winning coach like himself would have the gravitas to pull Jones into line.

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It’s not the first time Woodward has gone after O’Shea, despite the pair working together at London Irish in the late 1990s. Woodward went after O’Shea following a 2019 Guinness Six Nations between England and Italy, when O’Shea was in charge of the Azzurri.

Woodward questioned O’Shea’s demeanour before the match in Twickenham. Addressing the panel on ITV, Woodward said: “Conor, great guy and all that stuff but he is smiling and joking before the game and I think that’s not professional sport”.

His odd jibe at O’Shea was roundly criticised at the time. Indeed O’Shea has even credited Woodward with changing his life.

“I was pretty disillusioned with rugby,” the former Ireland fullback and Harlequins head coach told the Irish Independent in 2018. “It’s funny how Clive changed things.

“Bringing over so many Irish guys (to London Irish) kicked the IRFU into saying we have to change and that’s how the Irish rugby system we see today was born. And he introduced me to my future wife too. So that has to be good!”

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