Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Stormers insist Eddie Jones still committed to them

The odds on Eddie Jones becoming the next England head coach continue to tumble, but the Stormers are adamant their new boss will remain in Cape Town.

The Rugby Football Union is reported to have made contact with Jones in its search for a man of "proven international experience" after Stuart Lancaster stepped down in the wake of England's World Cup disaster.

William Hill has become the latest bookmaker to suspend betting on Jones replacing Lancaster after the Australian was heavily backed over the last 48 hours, reducing him from 6-1 to 11/10 before closing the market.

The Stormers, however, are publically insisting that the recently-arrived 55-year-old will continue at the South African Super Rugby franchise.

"Eddie's position has not changed since his unveiling last week at our media conference," a Stormers spokesman told Press Association Sport.

"Eddie said then that there has been 'no contact and I'm committed to the Stormers'."

Jones, the former Australia and Japan coach, has become the front runner to replace Lancaster after a succession of high-profile candidates ruled themselves out of contention.

His compatriot Michael Cheika, who has returned to the United Kingdom to coach the Barbarians this week, committed himself to the Wallabies on Monday by stating he already has his "dream job".

A mass of in-demand Kiwis, among them Warren Gatland, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, are out of the frame for a variety of reasons, leaving Jake White as the only man to publicly declare his interest.

With the most recent international experience on White's CV coming eight years ago, albeit when he steered South Africa to World Cup glory, Jones has been identified as the most credible candidate who could be lured from his existing post.

He led Australia to the final of the 2003 World Cup, but his finest moment was masterminding Japan's shock victory over the Springboks at England 2015 two months ago - the greatest upset in rugby history.

Japan went on to win two more matches in the pool stage, yet still failed to advance to the knockout phase.

He also enjoyed spells as an assistant with South Africa in 2007 and at Aviva Premiership club Saracens.

Recent comments made by Jones, however, could signpost a looming club v country row were he to be appointed.

"How can you manage your players when they are controlled by other organisations?" he told ESPN.

"In my opinion, that is the single greatest task ahead of whoever is going to be appointed as the next England coach.

"Wales, Ireland and Scotland - unlike England, Italy and France - all have centralised contracting systems.

"The union controls the players. As a consequence, they produced competitive teams and vibrant performances at the recent World Cup."

Jonny Wilkinson refused to be drawn on who he believes should succeed Lancaster when receiving his CBE at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, instead focusing on what he insists it will take for England to become the dominant force in the game.

"It has to be addressed on a level that you just have to reset the bar, at all levels from grassroots up," he said.

"You do it by saying 'these are the standards, these are the things we're going to work on, this is how we view the English game, this is what we want players to be able to do'.

"But that bar has to be high, and then you have got to ensure that the enjoyment that goes with it is even higher too, so that kids want to go out there and do it, so kids see this as normal.

"So, 'normal' for kids, and for players in the Premiership league, 'normal' becomes what we used to see as 'exceptional'."

Wilkinson retired last year after leading his club, Toulon, to the double of European glory in the Heineken Cup and winning the French Top 14 final. He now works as a specialist kicking coach at Toulon.

And while he is uncertain about his long-term future, he smiled at the idea of taking up a coaching position for his country, instead praising the efforts that went into the last World Cup campaign.

He said: "No, no. I have an enormous amount of respect and saw the guys throughout the World Cup and understood exactly what they were doing and how they were doing it and was really impressed by everything.

"What it does is it shows you just how tough that environment is, it shows you how many different components there are that need to fit together, work together and roll together."


From Belfast Telegraph