Eddie Jones has been rebuked by the Rugby Football Union for criticising the English game’s reliance on the private school system.
England’s head coach said in a newspaper interview published over the weekend that “you are going to have to blow the whole thing up” because it produces “closeted” players who lack “resolve”. The view has been condemned as “insulting” and “divisive and disrespectful” by the 2003 World Cup-winning mastermind Sir Clive Woodward and Twickenham has reacted by highlighting the importance of private schools to the game.
“RFU chief executive, Bill Sweeney, spoke to the England head coach, Eddie Jones, on Sunday and confirmed the RFU’s position on the valued role the independent sector plays in the player pathway,” an RFU statement read. “The RFU is hugely appreciative and supportive of the role both the independent and state school sectors play in introducing boys and girls to our sport and in our player pathway.
“A collaborative approach and strong partnerships within the education sector ensure players are supported and offered opportunities to develop at all schools. The most recent England men’s squad contained players who have benefited from time within independent schools, including Maro Itoje and Henry Arundell, as well as many from the state sector including Jonny Hill and Courtney Lawes. As a union, we are always working to broaden the appeal and accessibility of rugby union to boys and girls from a wide range of backgrounds.”
Of the starting XV that beat Australia in last month’s series-decider in Sydney, eight were either partially or fully educated at private schools. The state sector provided the majority of England’s squad for the 2019 World Cup when they reached the final and its diversity of education and ethnicity have been held up as a success story of the game on these shores.
But Jones told the i newspaper: “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.
“When things go to crap 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.”
Jones has courted controversy throughout his seven-year reign as England coach, most recently for angrily confronting a home fan who called him a “traitor” in the third Test at Sydney Cricket Ground. The Australian coached the Wallabies from 2001 and 2005 and has been linked with a return when his contract at Twickenham expires after next year’s World Cup. He oversaw a 2-1 series victory against his compatriots, dispelling any lingering concern over his future caused by England’s dismal performances in the last two Six Nations.