Eddie Jones has claimed the coronavirus crisis will result in the rise of more hybrid players when rugby resumes and has given his backing to proposed sweeping changes to the international calendar.
The England head coach has previously suggested Jack Nowell could play as a flanker for the national side while Ben Earl covered the back three during the Six Nations. During the championship, Jones also came in for widespread criticism for selecting players out of their traditional positions, including Jonathan Joseph on the wing and Tom Curry at No 8.
“How teams operate will be different,” Jones said. “I think every sport, particularly rugby, has been blown up through television rights and I think what will happen is that squads will become smaller and will need more multiskilled players. We got criticised a lot for playing like Tom Curry, who can play six, seven and No 8, but they are the sort of players you’re going to need to have: Jack Nowell being able to play wing or flanker, Ben Earl being able to play flanker or wing.”
It remains to be seen whether Jones’s theory will come to pass with England’s next outing – a two-Test tour against Japan in July – almost certain to be called off. On Monday the Japan head coach, Jamie Joseph, expressed strong doubts while the Rugby Football Union chief executive, Bill Sweeney, has already discussed contingency plans for moving the tour to October. Sweeney has revealed a proposal for a bumper Six Nations later this year if the southern hemisphere sides are not able to travel north in November.
“When we get through this it will be a different place, and we are looking at the fact that the season will change, which will only be positive,” Jones said. “I think rugby has grown sort of higgledy-piggledy since the start of international rugby and there is an opportunity for it to get better.”
Meanwhile, World Rugby has confirmed it is investigating allegations of homophobia against a leading figure in the Fiji Rugby Union, which supported Sir Bill Beaumont’s bid for re-election as chairman of the global governing body. The Sunday Times reported it had heard a recording of the FRU chairman, Francis Kean, while he was in charge of the Fiji prison service, in which the paper alleged homophobic language was used.
“World Rugby notes allegations … and takes them extremely seriously,” read a statement. “Rugby is a sport built on strong and inclusive values and World Rugby does not in any way condone any abusive or discriminatory behaviour.”