Eddie Jones has been sacked as English rugby’s head coach with immediate effect. The Australian was summoned to a meeting at Twickenham on Tuesday morning and informed his seven-year tenure in charge of the national team had been terminated after a disappointing series of results this year.
It is a big call by the Rugby Football Union just nine months before the start of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Leicester’s Steve Borthwick remains the leading candidate to replace the 62-year-old Jones but, for now, the forwards coach Richard Cockerill has been put in day-to-day charge in a caretaker role.
In a statement the RFU’s chief executive, Bill Sweeney, said: “It is important to recognise the huge contribution Eddie has made to English rugby, winning three Six Nations Championships, one grand slam and taking us to a Rugby World Cup final.
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“He has the highest win ratio of any previous England head coach and has helped develop the leadership skills of many players and coaches. I am grateful to Eddie for all he has done for England across many areas of the game and the professional way in which he has approached reviewing the performance of the team. He has provided the panel with astute insight and meaningful lessons that will support the team performance going forward.”
Jones, who boasted a 73% winning record in charge of England, superior to any other Red Rose head coach including the World Cup-winning guru Sir Clive Woodward, said he was leaving with a degree of satisfaction at what England achieved on his watch. “I am pleased with much that we have achieved as an England team and I look forward to watching the team’s performance in the future. Many of the players and I will no doubt keep in touch and I wish them all well in their future careers.”
Under Jones, England reached the 2019 World Cup final and won three Six Nations titles including a grand slam in 2016, his first year in charge. They also equalled New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive Test victories in 2017 but have not been as consistently successful since. This year England have endured their worst set of results since 2008, losing six, drawing one and winning five of their 12 Test matches in 2022. They managed just one win from their four autumn Tests.
The decision to dismiss Jones was taken by the RFU board on Tuesday. Speaking about the decision, the RFU chair, Tom Ilube, said: “The independent review panel regularly updates board on its discussions and findings. We are fully supportive of its process and recommendations.”
In March, after England’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, the RFU had backed Jones, saying it was “encouraged by the solid progress the team has made”. That optimism has not been shared by supporters, with a chorus of Twickenham boos greeting the 27-13 loss to South Africa last month.
With Warren Gatland having agreed to return to Wales in the wake of Wayne Pivac’s abrupt sacking on Monday, the RFU says its future coaching setup will be confirmed “in the near future”. England kick off their 2023 Six Nations campaign with a Calcutta Cup showdown against Scotland at Twickenham on 4 February.
Not everyone is convinced that jettisoning Jones is a wise move, with the former Wallaby international Matt Giteau describing it on Twitter as “the silliest thing they could do to the English rugby team” and a “big mistake”.