As the richest union in rugby with the widest player pool, England warrants a world-class coach with a proven record in achieving success. Though it seemed Ian Ritchie had excessively limited his options by publically stating the need for international experience, the beleaguered CEO has got his man and England the right person for the job.
Stuart Lancaster’s dignified exit as England Head Coach, following the disastrous World Cup campaign, presented the opportunity for England to address a continuation of underwhelming appointments. Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton, Martin Johnson and Lancaster all achieved very limited success due in part to their lack of coaching experience at the highest level.
The conclusion that Eddie Jones has been chosen partly due to his challenging and affrontive character - a direct antithesis of Lancaster’s calm and accepting demeanour - is unavoidable. However, the former’s coaching expertise, accumulated through stints across world rugby, was surely the decisive factor.
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As the former coach of both the Wallabies, whom he led to the final in 2003 with a mediocre front five, and Japan, where he achieved three group stage wins including the 34-32 upset over South Africa, not to mention his success at club level, Jones has earned his opportunity at arguably rugby’s biggest job.
There is no guarantee of success at elite level sport, but the 55-year-old represents England’s best available option of reaffirming themselves amongst rugby’s elite. Despite his unsuccessful stints at the Reds and his final year coaching the Wallabies, as a coach still very in touch with the modern game, Jones is a leader able to outsmart the very best.
Whereas Lancaster ultimately abandoned England’s principles prior to the clash against Wales last month, the former Brumbies coach was able to mastermind the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history.
Throughout the 2015 Six Nations, George Ford and Jonathan Joseph were pivotal as England had established an attacking style that had seemingly revolutionised their conservative traditions. By reverting back to type through picking Owen Farrell, Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt in the midfield following Joseph’s untimely injury, Lancaster negated the opposition’s threat at the cost of blunting their own and revealed his lack of conviction in his own judgement.
The foundations for an expansive brand of rugby have been laid and Lancaster may duly receive postponed credit, but action needed to be taken after England became the first hosts to fail to reach the knock-out stages in the history of the Rugby World Cup.
The argument, meanwhile, that England should have an English coach is unsuitable at this time. Ideally our domestic game would be producing obvious candidates for the national job and although Jim Mallinder and Rob Baxter have been successful at Northampton and Exeter respectfully, and will hopefully be involved in the new setup in some capacity, they would have been a downgrade compared to Jones for the top role.
Wales, aware that test rugby is a results business, looked beyond their own borders more than a decade ago and Kiwi Warren Gatland has won them two grand slams and a further title since his appointment, this time eight years ago.
Although Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson both ultimately failed to maximise the potential of the ‘golden generation’ in the football team, Ritchie has done the right thing by appointing by calibre, not nationality.
As the new incumbent mentioned excessively early in his press conference, England possess a rich array of young talents, having won two of the last three U20 World Cups. Maximising such potential and reinvigorating the current squad to compete with the Southern Hemisphere sides requires progressive thinking and new ideas, and in this regard Jones is England’s best bet.
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