It would be madness for England to get rid of Eddie Jones when there are many other problems that should be fixed first, writes ZELIM NEL.
Look, there’s no way to paint a pretty picture of England’s 2021 Six Nations campaign. They finished last (Italy doesn’t count, mate) and were poor in losses against Scotland and Ireland.
But they are still on a better trajectory than the England team that Eddie inherited in 2016, when he repaired the ramparts at Twickenham and made it the home of the European champs. And he’s done it twice since, not to mention epic victories over the Wallabies and All Blacks in Japan the last time the rugby world got together for a braai.
The truth is that a segment of the English rugby media have never liked Eddie because he measures success in wins and losses, not courage and endeavour.
Though the demand for analysis is slowly growing among content consumers, England’s tabloids are world renowned and the rugby media has its fair share of ambulance-chasers who seem to be far more content writing up the scandalous officiating in a courageous 36-32 loss than unpacking the tactical efficiencies of a tight 9-6 victory.
Eddie is a winner and his teams find and generally stick to the shortest route to victory. In rugby, that route usually involves playing the percentages.
For those whose rugby background is based in the public-school traditions of ‘get the ball to the wings’, much of the past five years have been spent bemoaning an efficient kicking game with a footnote begrudgingly admitting that England won.
And when a coach is single-minded about streamlining operations to maximise success, there will always be a trail of discarded, disgruntled players eager to feed the media tales of how they were victimised by mean old Eddie Jones.
This is not to exonerate the coach from England’s obvious World Cup hangover. If anything, Eddie is in hot water because he’s occasionally indulged the media’s rugby fantasies, evidenced in Dublin as Ireland punished England for placing too small a premium on field position.
But even if the RFU opted to sack Eddie, who would they replace him with?
Among the coaches who would be interested and available for the job, how many come close to matching Eddie’s credentials?
Would the RFU find a candidate assured of winning three Six Nations titles in their first five seasons at the helm?
And those suggesting Eddie is somehow good enough to get England to a World Cup final but not win it should perhaps consider that the Roses had a 33% win rate in the decider prior to his appointment, book-ending their 2003 title with losses against the Wallabies in 1991 and South Africa (with Jones a central member of the Bok management team) in 2007.
As England lock Maro Itoje said, while a slump is not something to cherish, the timing of England’s current depression is good. That is to say, if England were going to hit quicksand, now would be the best time for it to happen.
In 1993, France narrowly won a two-Test tour to South Africa while the Springboks lost a three-Test tour of Australia before regrouping to emerge as world champions in 1995.
The 2009 All Blacks were thrice beaten by South Africa and went on to win the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and current world champions the Springboks suffered record defeats between 2016 and 2018.
Meanwhile, between 2016 and 2021, England have produced a 78% win rate, up from 63% over the same span prior to Eddie’s appointment.
There certainly are things that need fixing at Rugby HQ, but the coach isn’t one of them.