The RFU insist Eddie Jones remains the right man to lead England to the 2023 Rugby World Cup and it looks like, despite the recent struggles at the Six Nations, the Aussie will still have plenty of rope to go. try to do things right.
After acknowledging that a second successive run of two out of five wins was not enough, CEO Bill Sweeney strongly defended Jones and his “new England” at a press conference at Twickenham on Thursday. Sweeney said Jones was “not bulletproof and he knows it” and that his and England’s performances were under constant scrutiny, but he also said his organization was happy with recent progress in all a range of areas that, so far, have not manifested in consistent results.
“People stay in their roles because they believe you’re always going in the right direction,” he said. Sweeney pointed out that Jones had won three Six Nations championships, while just four months ago they won an eighth successive victory against Australia and then beat world champions South Africa. “I absolutely, totally feel the frustration and that we have to find a way to win more games and win more trophies,” Sweeney said.
“But you can’t just look in the rear view mirror. You’re constantly making judgments. Are we going to progress or are we deluding ourselves? Every time we’ve had this conversation, we’ve come out on the side of ‘no, we think we’re let’s go in the right direction as we transition this team.” For all his ‘next game is the most important’ mantra, Jones has always sought to measure his success against the World Cup.
Such is the desperately limited pool of competitive teams in the sport, he knows that England, in almost any state of preparation, will travel to France with justified high hopes of going deep again. That’s partly because he’s so confident in what he can accomplish during the nearly three-month pre-tournament training camp, when he said he would finally put together the offense that has missed so much over the past two years.
It’s also because England have a relatively good draw, meaning they’ll likely have to beat Argentina to top their group and then either Wales or Australia in the quarter-finals. Sure, these are tough games, but ones England could reasonably expect to win, to set up a likely semi-final with New Zealand.
In 2019, that was exactly the route they had taken, producing one of their greatest performances to sweep the All Blacks before losing to South Africa in the final. With a potential 50,000 England supporters turning the Stade de France into a virtual home game, a repeat is entirely possible, if not yet likely.
England’s performance on tour of Australia this year, in their ‘mini-World Cup’ autumn Tests against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa and even in the Six nations next year, will only have a limited bearing on their chances in October 2023. Even a series of dramatic defeats would seem unlikely to push the RFU into radical change, with a list of potential managers capable of make things better in such a short time, probably starting and ending with Warren Gatland.
“Eddie’s win rate against Southern Hemisphere teams is 82% and if you’re going to win a World Cup you’re probably going to beat at least three,” said Sweeney, who said he there was no “deadline” or “minimum requirement” in place that could trigger Jones’s dismissal. “He’s got this team going in the direction we think they want to go,” he said. “It’s what we feel and what we see and it’s not just emotional or blind faith.” players. Considering all of that, we think he’s the right guy to guide us.”
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