Eddie Jones would have been worth waiting for: RFU boss
Eddie Jones would have become England coach even if he had insisted on seeing out the first year of his contract with The Stormers, Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie told The Times.
Ritchie, whose own position was in some doubt after England’s disastrous first round exit at the 2015 World Cup they hosted, admits he knew Jones would bring a ‘certain amount of arrogance’, a very different trait to his down to earth predecessor Stuart Lancaster.
That allied to Australian Jones’s sublime coaching and motivational skills has proven a triumphant combination as England have gone through 2016 winning all 13 Testsincluding the Six Nations Grand Slam and a historic 3-0 series win in Australia.
Ritchie admits however, he and the RFU were prepared to wait for their man had 56year-old Jones and South African Super Rugby franchise the Stormers insisted on him staying for at least a season. As a fallback option they would have installed Lancaster’s assistants, Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Graham Rowntree as caretaker coaches. “If it had been absolutely impossible and we couldn’t have done it, we would still have gone for the longer-term option and had some sort of holding operation,” said Ritchie of the alternative of the troika staying on. “That was always a possibility. That’s what we would have done,” added Ritchie, formerly chief executive of the All England Club responsible for running Wimbledon, Ritchie thought at first on landing in Cape Town last November he had no chance of securing Jones’s signature simply because of the breathtaking scenery.
Jones, who had boosted his stature with his handling of Japan at the World Cup where they had pulled off one of the great sporting upsets in defeating two-time world champions South Africa, proved more malleable than he had feared. “The two of us sat in that hotel room for four hours just talking through everything,” said Ritchie, who took on his present role in 2011.
“People say the first few minutes of any discussion, you get an idea of whether you can work with someone or not-and the next few hours confirmed that (I could). “It was clear he was interested in the job. It wasn’t as if I was trying to persuade someone who was rampantly unwilling to do it.”
Jones, who guided Australia to the 2003 World Cup final on home turf only for England legend Jonny Wilkinson to dash his hopes with a winning drop goal in the dying seconds of extra-time, even accepted his two recommendations of central contracts and selecting players playing abroad were not going to be the RFU’s policy.
However, despite his ceding on those Ritchie admits Jones is ‘no shrinking violet’. “That is part of the deal,” said Ritchie. “It was very clear: Eddie is no shrinking violet and nor was he ever going to be. You want talented, committed people who have views of their own.” — AFP