RFU interfering with Steve Borthwick's selections, claims Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones says Steve Borthwick may be getting leaned on over team selection - Getty Images/David Rogers
Eddie Jones says Steve Borthwick may be getting leaned on over team selection - Getty Images/David Rogers

Eddie Jones has suggested that the Rugby Football Union's board has been interfering with Steve Borthwick's selection of the England side, particularly in the high-profile fly-half position.

The Australia head coach, who was sacked from Borthwick's role in December last year, believes that outside influence led to his successor picking Marcus Smith over Owen Farrell for the 53-10 demolition by France at Twickenham last Saturday.

“The selection of Marcus — to me that’s always the political selection,” Jones, 63, said on his podcast EDDIE. “A player has been out of form, hasn’t quite done well at Test level and then he plays one or two club games and he’s a hero. The media starts banging on the door — you’ve got to pick him, you’ve got to pick him — and then the board reacts to that, and ask, ‘Why aren’t you picking him?’

“When you’re a young coach at the start of your career you can get influenced by that. I really felt for Marcus in that game. The thing you’ve got in England is the intenseness [sic] of the media, which then affects the board, and they start to step in, and that’s when you get problems. Allow the coach to coach.

“The board have a strategic role, but because they feel the pressure they try to get involved in the operational side, and that’s when things get worse. Unless you have strong people around the team that can be a difficulty.”

An RFU spokesperson told Telegraph Sport: “Team selection is entirely Steve’s decision as England Head Coach.”

In November last year, Telegraph Sport revealed that Jones' closest adviser, David Pembroke, had accused Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, of leaking stories about the departures of England's backroom staff and described the Twickenham figurehead as "Slippery Bill".

Pembroke later apologised personally to Sweeney - who denied the governing body's involvement with any leaks - for the comments, but the episode served as a reminder of the increasingly fractious relationship between Jones and the RFU.

After England's humbling at Twickenham last Saturday, however, Jones is expecting a response from his former side as they head to Dublin with hopes of thwarting an Irish Grand Slam.

“They can turn it around, there’s no doubt about it,” Jones, whose Wallabies could face England in a potential World Cup quarter-final, added. “They’ve got good players, a good coach, they’ll get better, it’s just how quickly you can do it.”