Private schools hit back after Eddie Jones' criticism

·3-min read
Eddie Jones attacked over public school criticism - PA
Eddie Jones attacked over public school criticism - PA

Eddie Jones has sparked a backlash from headmasters over his outburst claiming English rugby should “blow up” its public school system to improve the pipeline of players.

Barnaby Lenon, who was head at Harrow until 2011, led an angry attack on Jones for suggesting players from the elite school were "closeted" from the real world.

Lenon, who is now chairman of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), added: "Where does he think rugby players are going to come from given that a low proportion of state schools offer rugby?"

Speaking on the back of the 2-1 series win over Australia, Jones has told the i newspaper that some English players tend to suffer from psychological shortcomings. “They work hard but they only know what they know," he said. "If you have only been in a system where you get to 15, you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow. Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything’s done for you. That’s the reality. You have this closeted life."

Lenon, however, said in a statement sent to Telegraph Sport that Jones was wrong to single out public schools for blame. "Rather than whinge about the schools that have trained up such a high proportion of his best players, we should focus on what the rugby authorities might be doing to develop individual pupils who are very good at rugby, many of whom can be identified by the age of 14," he wrote.

Jones attended a state comprehensive near Sydney, but seven of the England side who started the third Test in Australia against the Wallabies were privately educated.

The head coach had said: “When things go to c--- on the field, who's going to lead because these blokes have never had experience of it? I see that as a big thing. When we are on the front foot we are the best in the world. When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be.”

In the same interview with the i, the England head coach also said England’s 2003 triumph under Clive Woodward, which saw his own Australia side beaten in the final on home turf, was a “situational success” that has had “nothing to follow”. For that to change, Jones believes, the sport must become more prevalent in wider society with handling and passing skills prioritised.

“It’s the way the players are educated,” he added. “I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve never seen kids in a park playing touch football [rugby]. Never. Zero. In the southern hemisphere they are all doing that, developing their skills. Here you see them playing football, but never touch football. That’s the problem.

“It’s all formal coaching, in a formal setting, in public schools. You are going to have to blow the whole thing up at some stage, change it because you are not getting enough skilful players through.”

However, his comments also prompted criticism online. One fan wrote on Twitter: "Yes, it would be nice if rugby was played more in state schools, but that won’t happen unless they are inspired by a successful England. As for the ‘Harrow doesn’t create leaders line’ - really? Google it, you berk."