Ollie Phillips: Do the RFU have the bottle to sack Eddie Jones?
The main factor at play when it comes to Eddie Jones’s future as head coach of England is that I do not believe the Rugby Football Union has the bottle to sack him.
Having led his side to a humiliating 27-13 loss last week against the Springboks, Jones’s year has concluded with his side having won just five of their 12 matches.
But this close to a World Cup – the opening match takes place in less than 10 months – when results are so dire, isn’t Jones the perfect man for the job?
I would have got rid of him in 2019, after that incredible win over the All Blacks at the last World Cup. The cycle was complete and England were in a better spot.
But now, three years on, look at where England are: in the trenches.
Woeful 2022 under Jones
The one thing that works in Jones’s favour is the fact that England’s 2018 was woeful too. They won just 46 per cent of their matches and lost to the likes of Scotland, France, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa.
But when your back is against the wall Jones is the perfect answer, 2019 proved that.
If it were me, I would see if I could coax Crusaders coach Scott Robertson into the role until the conclusion of the World Cup – he is desperate for a big gig to prove his worth on the important international stage – and then get Leicester coach Steve Borthwick in place for the 2024 Six Nations.
Borthwick is a coach who knows how the bureaucracy of international rugby works and has proven success in a league where all of the players are based.
But back to Jones. He is an abrasive and full-on character; it looks as though you’ve got to be all in with him otherwise you’re out.
He has had players such as potential captain Ellis Genge come out in support of him and he clearly clicks with some – but it’s the others he needs to worry about.
It’s a difficult situation for a man who knows everything is turning against him, but he was smart enough to sign a contract extension in 2020 to secure his future. Getting rid of Eddie Jones now would be expensive.
There’s talk of him going to the United States, and what a job that would be; a team in turmoil with a home World Cup looming in eight years.
But enough of the gloom, let’s talk about Ireland.
Andy Farrell’s team have been a shining light for the otherwise poor home nations this autumn and it looks as though they’re ticking along nicely towards the World Cup.
Their time bomb, however, is Johnny Sextion – just how long can they keep him fit?
If the Leinster playmaker can stay on the ball, I think Ireland – along with the hosts – will be Europe’s main challenger at the World Cup in France next year.
Heading up the pack
But they also play well: they have the grunt and determination in the forwards and the ability to throw it around across the park – they’ve developed into a great outfit under the former England assistant.
Ireland are heading up the pack for Europe and I just don’t think any of the other home nations are close at the moment.
Losing to Georgia is unacceptable and that’s just what Wayne Pivac’s Wales have done . At least if they pull the trigger, for Warren Gatland or anybody else, they’ll do it this year.
The home nations seem to be in a rut generally but England’s internal war with Jones will no doubt rage on – until the RFU find the gumption to take the initiative and make a decision.
China Sevens head coach Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.