Eddie Jones has revealed he will hold talks with the Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney over potentially extending his contract through to the 2023 World Cup as England on Sunday moved into pole position to claim the Six Nations title. In a surprising claim that demonstrates his long-term future is far from straightforward however, Jones said that he “never enjoys coaching” following England’s victory over Wales.
England were installed as odds-on favourites for a first Six Nations crown since 2017 after France’s defeat by Scotland moved them top of the table with their rescheduled match against Italy still to come. With that fixture unlikely to take place before next season however, if at all, the England squad have now returned to their clubs while Jones will conduct a review of his side’s four matches with his coaches.
Jones’s contract expires in 2021 and he has remained tight-lipped over whether he wants to stay until France 2023. After last year’s World Cup final Sweeney said that it made sense for Jones to stay but the following month, after the pair had held talks, the RFU chief executive insisted he was in no rush to extend his head coach’s contract. They are due to meet again in the coming weeks but Jones cast a degree of doubt over his future plans.
“I think we’ve got dinner organised in a couple of weeks so we may be able to chat about it,” said Jones. Asked if he still enjoys his £750,000-a-year job, he said: “I never enjoy coaching. Winning is a relief. Anyone who tells you they enjoy coaching is lying. All you do is coach hard, if you win you feel good for 24 hours and then you’re back into it. That’s all it is.”
Jones has already started plotting England’s two-Test tour of Japan in July but an agreement between the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association dictates that almost all of last year’s World Cup squad will not be available. The agreement says that, including World Cup matches, any member of the squad who makes 20 appearances of more than 20 minutes this season must be rested.
Jones, however, was adamant that beating Japan rather than blooding youngsters was his aim and suggested he may try to make exceptions for Saracens’ England contingent – including his captain Owen Farrell – before they spend a “sabbatical” season in the Championship.
“They’ve got to play some rugby, don’t they? It’s either playing Jersey or Japan,” he said. “Once we get down to selection for Japan, we’ll start to look at what each player needs to have.
“[The tour] is about winning. The first two years [of a World Cup cycle] are about getting credit in the bank. It’s about winning. They’ll have four months to prepare for that [first] game. They’ll have heat camps for three or four weeks. I’ve been on the other side of it, I know how they operate. We’ll have probably 10 days to get the squad together to play in conditions that are going to be almost the opposite of what the players are used to. It’s going to be a real test of our ability to adapt quickly to the conditions and get a team together because I’m sure there may be different players in the squad.”
If Italy’s two postponed matches against Ireland and England are rescheduled, Jones’s side’s chances of lifting the trophy are likely to depend on how much they can boost their points difference in Rome. For France to win the tournament they would have to beat Ireland by a bigger margin but if Andy Farrell’s side win in Paris on Saturday they are also in the mix. Indeed, do so with a bonus point and Ireland would be crowned champions by repeating the feat against Italy.
There remains lingering doubt however, over whether the two Italy matches can be squeezed into a cluttered calendar and Jones said: “I’m not assuming anything, I’m not worried about until someone says, ‘Eddie we’re playing it on this date’. Then we’ll worry about it.”