RFU supports England coach Eddie Jones despite struggles in South Africa
The Test series in South Africa was surrendered on Saturday, with a game to spare.
Eddie Jones’ immediate future remains secure after the Rugby Football Union released a terse statement declaring that England’s embattled head coach retains its support.
Jones is under siege on multiple fronts as England’s tour to South Africa began to unravel in the Afrikaners’ heartland of Bloemfontein where the frustration of players and management boiled over.
The series was surrendered with a game to spare after Saturday’s 23-12 defeat at Free State Stadium registered a fifth successive Test loss that could plunge the team as low as sixth in the global rankings.
Jones is contracted until 2021 with a break clause dependent on performance at next year’s World Cup in place, but for now his position is safe despite the alarming slump that began in the the recent NatWest 6 Nations.
While the Rugby Football Union declined to make chief executive Steve Brown or chairman Andy Cosslett available to publicly defend Jones, the governing body did issue a brief statement.
“The RFU supports Eddie Jones and his coaching team,” a spokeswoman said.
Evidence that the tension is affecting both players and coaches abounded at Free State Stadium, where Jones turned on a broadcaster by taking exception to the line of questioning.
ACTION & REACTION | All the action and reaction from Jonny May and Tom Curry as England lost the second Test to South Africa in Bloemfontein #WearTheRosePosted by England Rugby on Sunday, June 17, 2018
When asked if he can reverse the slide, Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m 100 per cent confident. One hundred per cent as you are aggressive.
“You’re nature is very aggressive, mate. That’s fine. I’m happy to answer that aggressive questioning.”
While Jones was locking horns with his interviewer in the aftermath of the bad-tempered second Test, several players also allowed their frustration to boil over.
Joe Marler swore at an England fan with Mike Brown joining in the verbal hostilities and Ben Youngs walked away from an interview with a television broadcaster after giving one curt answer.
Just wanted to say sorry I walked off during my interview with Sky Sports. Obviously was very emotional and disappointed with result. Good to chat to Gail second time round just now. We go again in Cape Town. Thank you everyone 🌹— Ben Youngs (@benyoungs09) June 16, 2018
The Leicester scrum-half’s conduct was condemned by World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward and he later apologised on social media.
To add to England’s woes, bulldozing number eight Billy Vunipola has suffered a recurrence of the broken arm that forced him out for four months earlier in the tour and he has returned home.
Billy’s older brother Mako has also left South Africa to attend the birth of his first child and is joined on the flight back to London by Ellis Genge, whose tour is over because of a knee problem, resulting in a call-up for Alec Hepburn.
Jones is convinced that he will lead England out of the doldrums ahead of Saturday’s climax to the series at Newlands.
“My job is to make the team win and it is not winning, but I have also got a job to do which is the process of coaching. I think I am doing that as well as I can. And the results will come,” Jones said.
“I haven’t had too many times when I have experienced this. And it’s tough. Sometimes you have to be very disciplined in the way you think.
“But we are only two to three per cent away from turning this around. And I know that. I absolutely know that.
“Just like when I took the team over that couldn’t make it out of their World Cup pool, this is the job of the coach, to find a way to turn it around.”