England’s head coach, Eddie Jones, has insisted he remains in sole charge despite being placed under greater scrutiny by the Rugby Football Union while also defending his “information-sharing” consultancy work in Japan.
The RFU in April largely cleared Jones of blame for the dismal Six Nations campaign but pledged to keep his and England’s performances under review via a group of unnamed “external rugby experts”. Jones subsequently came in for widespread criticism when it emerged he was giving the All Blacks star Beauden Barrett “little pieces of gold” in his capacity as director of rugby at Suntory Sungoliath, just weeks after the Six Nations had finished.
Jones, however, dismissed suggestions his wings had been clipped. “There’s only one head coach, mate,” he said. “At the end of the day, whether the team wins or loses, the responsibility is mine. I use a series of experts in and outside the game to come up with the best coaching environment. I welcome any good advice, I welcome any wisdom I can get. The only thing I know is that I took part in the review and I thought it was a good review. I didn’t write the report. It is the RFU’s. I’m the head coach. The head coach makes the decision.”
Jones has held a consultancy role with Suntory for more than 20 years but the timing of his latest trip to Tokyo raised eyebrows, not least with England drawn in the same pool as Japan at the 2023 World Cup. Sir Clive Woodward was among those to lash out, claiming Jones’s role with Suntory made “English rugby look ridiculous”, though the RFU has always maintained it is comfortable with his additional work.
“I go round clubs continually to try and pick people’s brains and obviously you share some information with them. That’s the obvious thing – it’s information sharing – but very useful,” Jones said.
“I’m a coach, I’ve got to practise coaching. If you’re a golfer you play golf, if you’re a coach you coach and I only get 12 weeks of the year to coach with England so I’ve got to use my time in between to practise coaching and find better ways to coach. I’m not aware of any criticism but I’m sure there might have been.”
Jones is expected next week to name his squad for the Tests against USA and Canada this summer and has proclaimed a “clean sheet” with 11 England players away with the British & Irish Lions and a number of senior stars overlooked by Warren Gatland likely to be rested. Jones does, however, intend to call up Kyle Sinckler – perhaps the most surprising omission from the Lions squad. Paolo Odogwu will miss out on a debut, however, after Wasps revealed he had sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“Sinks we will definitely use, because he wants to keep playing rugby and he’s going to be an important guy for us,” said Jones. “I’d love to see all our players selected [for the Lions] because it’s a great opportunity to get to play for a historical team in a historical competition, so I’m disappointed for him in that respect.”