After a fifth-place finish in the 2021 Six Nations, fans are split over whether or not England should sack Eddie Jones. Ryan Dabbs offers his view
Comment: Should England sack Eddie Jones?
Following England’s fifth-place finish in the 2021 Six Nations, fans are split between whether England should sack Eddie Jones or keep him in the hot seat. It’s the second time England have finished fifth in the Six Nations since Jones’s appointment in 2016 and pressure is mounting on the Australian coach.
RFU boss Bill Sweeney has confirmed that the union will conduct a “brutally honest” review into England’s performances and Jones’s position at the helm.
Currently contracted until the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, Jones has spoken of his desire to emulate the success of the 2003 champions. However, expediting this Six Nations review from May to April suggests the RFU feel an urgency in assessing his contract.
Jones said in 2016 that the shelf life of an international coach is four years. He is now in his sixth year in charge of England – can he capably progress the team?
Yet every team goes through tough periods, when results are hard to come by and performances are sub-par. While Jones has finished fifth on two occasions in the Six Nations, he has also won the tournament three times.
Most notable of all, though, is the team’s response in the past during difficult moments. After a fifth-place finish in the 2018 Six Nations, Jones looked doomed leading into a World Cup year. Yet at Japan 2019, England beat New Zealand to reach the final, where they fell at the final hurdle and lost to South Africa.
Can Eddie Jones resurrect this England team to achieve success at RWC 2023?
Jones has produced results and championships for England, and one bad tournament shouldn’t cloud the judgement of his managerial expertise. Granted, the results from this season’s Six Nations aren’t exactly compelling, although they do offer a glimmer of hope.
Beating France highlights the quality and tactical nous they possess to produce results. The problem, it seems, is unlocking that potential for every game, to recapture the consistency that was so evident in Jones’s early years in charge.
Preparations for this season’s Six Nations were heavily disrupted. Jones joined the squad at the start of the tournament later than intended, after having to self-isolate following forwards coach Matt Proudfoot’s positive Covid-19 test.
Furthermore, assistant coach Jason Ryles’s inability to travel from Australia meant the relatively inexperienced Jersey Reds coach Ed Robinson, 28, stepped up to the Test environment.
Plus, Jones was unable to bring players in and out of camp as much as he might usually have given the limit on a 28-player squad due to Covid.
The players must also take responsibility for the poor showing in the tournament. England’s inconsistency in the championship reinforces Itoje’s argument that the players “need to be accountable for our behaviours”.
In the long run, this pitiful championship defence could actually prove more beneficial to England, and Jones in particular. He will have learnt more about his players from this tournament than any potential incoming coach could learn.
Jones knows which of his players he can rely on, and which players aren’t worth keeping around; he knows who will stand up and be counted when their backs are against the wall. This could prove invaluable for the upcoming 2023 World Cup.
Let’s not forget either that Jones has amassed a win ratio of 76.6% from 64 Tests – truly remarkable when considering the calibre of opposition England face on a yearly basis. Clive Woodward managed a 71.1% win ratio from 83 matches in comparison.
Probably the most pertinent question is: who is in a better position to lead England to RWC 2023? Quite frankly, no one, from my point of view.
Jones has managed both England and Australia to RWC finals, while he won the 2007 trophy with South Africa as technical advisor. Clearly, he knows what it takes to reach the final, while his past failures at that last hurdle will no doubt ignite the fire in his belly. And with a poor 2021, Jones could rediscover a winning mentality to prepare England over the next two years to challenge for the Webb Ellis Cup.
In conclusion, the stellar job the Aussie has done shouldn’t be overshadowed by one poor tournament. Although not perfect, Jones should be given the opportunity to continue in the role and take England to RWC 2023, in search of glory they’ve managed just once previously.
Can’t get to the shops? Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet. Subscribe to the print edition for magazine delivery to your door.