Eddie Jones’ immediate future remains secure after the Rugby Football Union released a terse statement declaring that England’s embattled head coach retains its support.
Jones is under siege on multiple fronts as England’s tour to South Africa began to unravel in the Afrikaners’ heartland of Bloemfontein where the frustration of players and management boiled over.
The series was surrendered with a game to spare after Saturday’s 23-12 defeat at Free State Stadium registered a fifth successive Test loss that could plunge the team as low as sixth in the global rankings.
Jones is contracted until 2021 with a break clause dependent on performance at next year’s World Cup in place, but for now his position is safe despite the alarming slump that began in the the recent NatWest Six Nations.
While the Rugby Football Union declined to make chief executive Steve Brown or chairman Andy Cosslett available to publicly defend Jones, the governing body did issue a brief statement.
“The RFU supports Eddie Jones and his coaching team,” a spokeswoman said.
Evidence that the tension is affecting both players and coaches abounded at Free State Stadium, where Jones turned on a broadcaster by taking exception to the line of questioning.
When asked if he can reverse the slide, Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m 100 per cent confident. One hundred per cent as you are aggressive.
“You’re nature is very aggressive, mate. That’s fine. I’m happy to answer that aggressive questioning.”
While Jones was locking horns with his interviewer in the aftermath of the bad-tempered second Test, several players also allowed their frustration to boil over.
Joe Marler swore at an England fan with Mike Brown joining in the verbal hostilities and Ben Youngs walked away from an interview with a television broadcaster after giving one curt answer.
The Leicester scrum-half’s conduct was condemned by World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward and he later apologised on social media.
To add to England’s woes, bulldozing number eight Billy Vunipola has suffered a recurrence of the broken arm that forced him out for four months earlier in the tour and he has returned home.
Despite the RFU having sympathy and support for Jones, someone who doesn't is Stuart Barnes.
The former England international believes it's a massive risk keeping Jones on for the World Cup next year, and believes the players need a new voice to listen to in the dressing room.
Barnes was writing for The Times in an article titled 'Intense Eddie Jones has to go – the players need a new voice,' and he admitted that a change could well be needed.
"England are not so much zooming in on the World Cup as limping painfully towards ignominy.
"As I said at the start of this column, time for action. But by whom? Jones? He tells us that 25 players have been left behind. It would take an idiot to accept that at face value. This was pretty much a two-thirds strength England team...
"Given that the RFU came out yesterday with a vote of confidence, Jones’s position as England coach has clearly crossed their mind. Six straight defeats and the shambles of Saturday’s second half require a full-scale RFU inquest.
"It appears that a new voice is needed. Just as Jones offered one to England post-Lancaster. The biggest risk is to take no risk."
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