Bill Sweeney, the Rugby Football Union chief executive, has claimed England players told him they felt it was the “right decision” to sack Eddie Jones as head coach nine months before the World Cup.
No members of the England squad have publicly supported the decision to remove Jones from his post after seven years in the job, but Sweeney has said that, privately, those he spoke to endorsed change.
Ten days after Jones was sacked, Courtney Lawes – who missed the disappointing autumn campaign because of injury after captaining England on the summer tour of Australia – said he had not been consulted and was not aware of any players who had been. He said he was sad to see Jones go while captain for the autumn, Owen Farrell, had previously said it was “unbelievably disappointing”, adding that “I don’t think it has come from the players”.
Lewis Ludlam was also among those to give his views, saying: “I don’t necessarily agree that it was the right decision” to sack Jones, who, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian last week, said he had received message of thanks from “at least 50 players” he had selected for England.
On The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast, Sweeney said: “I spoke to a number [of players], Conor [O’Shea, the RFU’s director of performance rugby] spoke to a number. The conversations I had, without naming players because I don’t think it would be fair or reasonable to do that, were disappointed in terms of the decision of Eddie going but [had] a real understanding and support for the decision being made.
“The ones that I spoke to said, ‘look we’re disappointed for Eddie, we like Eddie but we understand why the decision was taken’ and without naming players said, ‘we think it’s the right decision’. In terms of changing what needed to be changed to go into 2023 in a stronger position.
“One of them said to me, ‘I was misquoted in the media because what I said was I was disappointed for Eddie but I wasn’t disappointed in the RFU decision, but that was reported as I’m disappointed in the decision’. So the ones I spoke to got the overall situation.”
Expanding on the decision to sack Jones and replace him with Steve Borthwick, Sweeney denied the chorus of boos that rang around Twickenham after the dismal defeat by South Africa in November was behind the decision. He said: “Some things weren’t quite clicking, weren’t working the way we all thought they were going to work, probably the way Eddie thought they were going to work.
“We reached the situation following the review where we felt some changes had to be made that probably Eddie wasn’t able to put into place just because of the tenure of the job.
“You sense the fans’ frustration. Nobody wants to hear booing at Twickenham after the South Africa match but that wouldn’t be a reason to make a decision to change the head coach, it was other factors.”
This year’s Six Nations championship will be featured in a ‘Drive to Survive’ style Netflix series which will be released next year, the streaming giant has announced. The F1 docu-series has proved successful in raising the wider profile of the sport and Six Nations officials hope to follow suit.
“The series will take us inside the exhilarating world of the oldest and greatest annual international rugby tournament, giving fans an insight into pulsating behind the scenes moments, as the best teams in Europe battle it out in some of the biggest matches in the rugby calendar to take home the prestigious trophy,” read a release from Netflix.