Eddie Jones will be replaced as England head coach by “the best man for the job” and not necessarily a homegrown coach if he leaves the position after the 2019 Rugby World Cup as expected, the new chief executive of the Rugby Football Union has confirmed.
Former Australia and Japan head coach Jones has guided England to two straight Six Nations championships, a Grand Slam triumph, summer tour whitewashes over Australia and Argentina and a world record-equalling run of 18 consecutive victories.
His impressive list of accolades with the Red Rose since replacing Stuart Lancaster after the 2015 Rugby World Cup debacle has led to unsurprising calls for him to remain beyond the next global gathering, despite Jones’ own admission that he will be “watching cricket in Barbados” and enjoying time away from the game. And while the next World Cup is taking priority in the RFU’s thinking, new chief executive Steve Brown does have one eye on finding an obvious successor.
“It is early doors. One thing that is a priority for me is to look at that succession piece generally. Rather than talking specifically about Eddie, we need to look at post-2019 and what happens next. That is an important thing for me to consider,” Brown said.
“The focus at the moment is on 2019 and Eddie is absolutely focused on that. He has his contract until that time and that is where the discussion is. It is fair to say that it is something I need to be considering sooner rather than later.
“My general opinion would be the bar has been set very high by Eddie. Eddie has been superbly successful and he will be right up to the World Cup as well. There is a standard that has been set there that shows what we need next time around.
“Ultimately it is measured on winning. The bar has been set and we know where it is and that is where we have got to work to.
Jones spent little time in laying out his plan for his stint with England, with his sights set on winning the Rugby World Cup and bowing out after four years in the job. Should the RFU already have a successor in mind, both Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter and Saracens boss Mark McCall would spring to mind due to their success in the Premiership and Europe.
However, Brown was keen to stress that the last two years under predecessor Ian Ritchie have not been a waste in terms of planning for a successor for Jones, and the answer may lie closer to home in his current assistant Steve Borthwick, who certainly looks to be an England head coach in the making.
“Part of the evolution of the union, specifically around the head coach piece, is that we start to look at succession planning properly,” Brown added. “Eddie is very keen to play a part in that. Some consideration has been going on for a while around what could be but it is not locked down or set in stone yet.
“It is not wasted time I don’t think. There is an important timing phase to that because you don’t want it to be a distraction. Don’t assume nothing is going on but we are not anywhere near a definitive place yet.
“That is my point about it being a priority. I think we need to have a succession plan in place, as you get closer and closer to the event we need to think about all the scenarios that could occur.”