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RFU boss Sweeney rejects idea of planning for Eddie Jones’ successor

England head coach Jones is contracted until 2021.

New RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney (pictured) is not looking to appoint a successor to Eddie Jones (Steven Paston/PA)
New RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney (pictured) is not looking to appoint a successor to Eddie Jones (Steven Paston/PA)

New chief executive Bill Sweeney has ripped up England’s succession planning for life after head coach Eddie Jones.

The Rugby Football Union’s fourth chief executive in two years has dispensed with England’s long-term plans for how to replace their taskmaster Australian boss.

Previous chief executives Ian Ritchie, Steve Brown and Nigel Melville all wanted England to develop assistant coaches capable of taking overall charge when Jones departs.

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Eddie Jones took charge of England in November 2015 (Andrew Matthews/PA)

But now former British Olympic Association chief Sweeney has claimed such early planning would prove “disruptive”, with Jones and now defence coach John Mitchell contracted until 2021.

“I haven’t had any conversations about coaching the successor for an extended period towards the end of that contract,” said Sweeney. “I think that is too far ahead.

“The focus is on the World Cup. The next priority is: have we got the right coaching structure in place for the Six Nations immediately following and what have we got in place going through to 2021?

“Eddie is absolutely focused doing the best we can possibly do in Japan. He’s committed to staying until 2021. I think any other speculation prior to that would be really disruptive to the situation.

“We are comfortable with the coaching set-up we’ve got. He’s a tremendous character to work with. He’s very demanding, he pushes us to levels and standards I think we need to aspire to as well, so having any speculation out there pre-World cup would be really disruptive.”

We are comfortable with the coaching set-up we've got. Bill Sweeney

Jones insisted on the day of his appointment in November 2015 that part of his job would be to develop assistant coaches capable of taking overall charge.

Then-chief executive Ritchie backed that approach, with his replacement Brown reiterating that stance in January 2018, when Jones’ contract was extended beyond the 2019 World Cup.

New RFU boss Sweeney confirmed Mitchell’s extended contract on Thursday, which brings the defence specialist in line with head coach Jones.

Mitchell had been touted as a possible replacement for Jones in the RFU’s previous ideas, but Sweeney has rejected all notion of succession planning.

When asked about the original plans that had Jones’ successor in place by 2020, Sweeney said: “That is not the intention, I haven’t heard that.

“We have had no conversations around that. Eddie is taking the team to Japan (on the summer tour in 2020).”

When asked if the RFU’s original plan had therefore changed, Sweeney said: “I didn’t know it existed in the first place.”

Sweeney then defended the RFU’s new stance on life after Jones, when it was suggested a lack of planning could prove too loose.

“I think that’s a little unfair, Eddie is contracted to 2021,” said Sweeney. “There was speculation that he’d go post-World Cup but he has never indicated that was the case.

“One of the first conversations I had was: ‘what is the status? What is his view?’ He is committed to going through to 2021.

“Steve Borthwick is an RFU employee, he’s moved from a contract to being an employee, so he is in place.

“Eddie had a strong preference to get John (Mitchell) on board again, they work together well, he wanted him there as defence coach. That’s now in place as well.

“You’ve got Neal Hatley going away. You’ve got Scott Wisemantel possibly, probably going away. Eddie’s got views on who he’d like to bring in already at that stage.”

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