OPINION: Hallelujah! The storm that has been plaguing the RFU since their dismal showing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup has finally subsided – and surprise surprise, they owe it all to a foreigner – not a player, but a coach, and one of the world’s finest.
While Jones’ appointment has been met by skepticism in some corners of England and joy in others, an outsiders’ point of view is probably as good as any since many grassroots English fans won’t actually know a hell of lot about England’s new coach except for the fact he coached the Wallabies to a World Cup final in 2003 and oversaw Japan’s remarkable 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign.
So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture because let’s face it, there will be enormous pressure on the 55 year old when England run out in their first 6 Nations match against the old enemy at Murrayfield.
England need to be patient
It’s a virtue that, when it comes to elite coaches in England’s primary sport football is devoid of and fortunately, it’s been one that has kept its nose out of rugby union. That is until now…
With the RFU throwing so much money (allegedly) at Jones in order to lure him to grey and dreary London away from beautiful Cape Town, I’m unsure whether England rugby fans have the patience for Eddie Jones to be completely successful with this England team. When a coach with a very high reputation is paid millions to come on board, accompanying the pay packet is the pressure to perform.
When you consider that the RFU very publicly searched abroad for Lancaster’s replacement and in doing so, traversed the invisible barrier of selecting overseas rugby talent, that pressure is increased ten-fold.
The powers that be at the RFU know that Eddie Jones won’t perform miracles in the first year. But after such a poor World Cup showing, if they experience a disappointing 6 Nations, the blowtorch will be applied very quickly from the fans because at the end of the day, fans still want to see their team performing well regardless of the internal situation.
The RFU’s house is already built, but the foundations are crumbly
Unfortunately, England’s poor performance at the 2015 Rugby World Cup rendered the sophisticated strategy formed after the previous World Cup with Stuart Lancaster at the centre absolutely void. And whether England fans can stomach it or not, Jones needs to knock the house down and lay down a firmer platform.
Obviously it all depends whether Jones gets the licence to completely rebuild England rugby but there is no question that its needed. So much was invested in Stuart Lancaster and the so-called five year plan and with England failing to have a contingency, something drastic is needed to drag England out of the darkest era they’ve experienced in a very long time.
The good news for the RFU is that it’s not going to get any worse than it has been for the past month. But in saying that, you can’t tear a house down without the possibility of getting wet if it rains so there may be some hard times before the results come.
Some issues like a number 6 thinking he’s a number 7 captaining the side as well as the severe lack of clarity in the England midfield need to be the first issues dealt with. Combine that with the need of centrally-based contracts and there is a massive job to be done, it’s just whether Jones gets the licence to do so.
He’s a good coach, but he’s not going to change the world
The RFU have been fairly responsible in their low expectations of what Eddie Jones can do with the England team in the next 12 months but that’s only because they know how big of a hole Jones has to dig the team and the organisation out of.
A coach and governing body would do well to escape unscathed after a pool exit at a home World Cup but with the whole governing body and most of the coaching team remaining intact, they’ve looked to band together in order to figure out why England performed so poorly on the biggest stage.
He won’t change the world and it’s highly unlikely England will go from a pool exit in 2015 to World Cup winners in 2019. But it’s imperative that England rugby fans know that Jones is the first good step in a long process that will likely extend to the 2023 Rugby World Cup
Jones is a part of a 8 year plan
Jones’ appointment is great news for former England player and Jones’ assistant at Japan Steve Borthwick who, if he comes over with Jones to the England set-up, will almost definitely assume the mantle after Jones goes in 2019.
Borthwick’s influence was clearly seen in the performance of the Japanese forward pack and, should we assume he becomes Jones’ assistant at England, will fill the prerequisites of proven international experience in 2019 when the RFU go on the hunt for another coach.
Despite many favouring Exeter’s Rob Baxter for Jones’ replacement in 2019, should Borthwick come back to England, he would absolutely have to be odds on favourite to become coach in 2019.
Eddie Jones is a good coach, that fact is undeniable and his results reflect this. But the England coaching role is a very different story from getting a tier two nation up for matches against the world’s top teams.
England fans don’t expect the best, they demand it and while their dear football union has low expectations, fans won’t be nearly as forgiving. At this time, patience is absolutely of the utmost importance. But will Jones get it?
Don’t bet on it.