Eddie Jones’s tenure as national head coach looks set to end as the Rugby Football Union attempts to dispel the air of gloom enveloping the English game. Following Wales’s decision to rehire their former coach Warren Gatland, it now leaves Leicester’s Steve Borthwick as the overwhelming frontrunner to replace Jones.
The RFU refused to comment publicly on the findings of the review panel which met Jones on Monday afternoon to discuss England’s increasingly poor results. A Twickenham spokesperson stressed the panel’s view still has to be ratified by the RFU board, with a formal announcement due in the next 36 hours.
Jones boasts a 73% winning record in charge of England, superior to any previous Red Rose head coach including the World Cup-winning guru Sir Clive Woodward. Under the Australian, England reached the 2019 World Cup final and won three Six Nations titles, including a grand slam in 2016.
They also equalled New Zealand’s record of 18 consecutive Test victories in 2017, but those happy memories have grown increasingly distant. This year England have endured their worst set of results since 2008, losing six, drawing one and winning five of their 12 Tests in 2022. They managed just one win from their four autumn Tests.
As recently as March, following England’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, the RFU backed Jones, with the union 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 defeat against South Africa last month. Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, is also having to deal with the messy fallout from the financial collapse of the Premiership sides Wasps and Worcester this autumn.
The RFU is refusing to confirm the identity of the panellists who sat in judgment of Jones, citing the damaging breaches in confidentiality which followed the leaking of a post‑tournament review into the team’s 2011 World Cup campaign.
Borthwick, Leicester’s head coach, and the New Zealander Scott Robertson – who is also a possible option for the All Blacks after the World Cup next year – are the obvious alternatives to Jones now Gatland has agreed to return to Wales in the wake of Wayne Pivac’s abrupt sacking.