Maro Itoje has jumped to the defence of coach Eddie Jones after England finished fifth in the 2021 Six Nations championship.
Calls for Jones’ dismissal have grown during the course of a campaign where the reigning champions were defeated in three of five matches, most recently a 32-18 reverse against Ireland in Dublin this past Saturday.
‘Eddie is a fantastic coach,’ said Itoje, the 47-Test England lock who performed well against Ireland. ‘He’s one of the best coaches I’ve worked with. His work rate, his knowledge, his feeling with the players and the way he goes about his business are genuinely second to none.’
England have been second to none in three of Jones’ six seasons at the helm, clinching the 2016, 2018 and 2020 Six Nations titles. And they were second to only one at the 2019 Rugby World Cup where they conquered the Wallabies and All Blacks in the playoffs before going down 32-12 against the Springboks in the final.
Former England flyhalf turned commentator Stuart Barnes wants Jones gone. ‘Eddie Jones has run out of steam,’ he told The Times. ‘There is no one left to blame. It is Jones’ team. It is his fault. Time to go.’
‘The players need to be accountable,’ said Itoje. ‘At the end of the day, Eddie can’t play the game for us. If you ask any player who has been under him, I doubt anyone will say differently. Eddie is a truly special coach.
‘We’re disappointed because we know that as a team we’re capable of so much more. It’s just on us.
‘In terms of what I believe this team can do and what this team can achieve, nothing has changed. I truly believe that we’ve got something here. We’re not displaying the best of the team at the moment. I do believe we are going somewhere, but we have to recover and take our medicine from this Six Nations.’