SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Eddie Jones has no right to belittle the English game. It’s INSULTING. His comments on private schools are nonsense – and the RFU just stand by and let it happen
- Eddie Jones’s views on private school rugby are divisive and disrespectful
- Twickenham chiefs have said nothing about the England coach’s comments
- Jones claims that players from private schools do not develop leadership skills
- The 62-year-old further stated that ‘English rugby is too reliant on public schools’
I gave myself 24 hours before I looked to respond to Eddie Jones’s divisive and disrespectful comments on English rugby’s private school system.
To be perfectly honest, in that time I expected the Rugby Football Union to come out and say something. But, as usual, we heard nothing from the head honchos at Twickenham.
Jones expressed his view that English rugby players who come through the private school system do not develop enough leadership skills or the ability to deal with adversity due to their education.
He believes England should ‘blow the whole thing up’ to try to improve the chances of future success. These are such negative comments and come at a very strange time.
England coach Eddie Jones claimed players who attended private schools lack leadership qualities
Jones can say what he likes, but he seemingly has a monopoly on the voice of English rugby. When the RFU just stand by and let it happen, you wonder what on earth is going on.
Why does Jones have the right to belittle the English game like that? When nobody from the RFU — such as the chief executive Bill Sweeney — responds, then you can only assume that the powers that be at Twickenham actually think the same as Jones.
It is either that, or they do disagree but opt for a quieter life rather than holding their head coach to account. Both demonstrate a fundamental failure of leadership.
England record appearance holder Ben Youngs attended a fee-paying school
Jones has taken aim at English rugby’s schooling system at a time when the game is in a really serious situation with players, both past and present, suffering from significant brain injuries.
Steve Thompson, Alix Popham, Ryan Jones and many others are all dealing with serious trauma as a result of head knocks suffered while playing rugby.
Ed Slater’s motor neurone disease diagnosis is another tragic recent development.
The sport is in a perilous situation at the moment and I was aghast when I read the story of former Scotland women’s international Siobhan Cattigan — who died aged 26 from suspected head trauma sustained while playing.
Jones’s comments in comparison seem so misplaced. They are insulting to English rugby.
Ed Slater retired from rugby after receiving a motor neurone disease diagnoses last month
At a time when the game must work together to solve incredibly important issues, to hear such a divisive stance from the England coach is astonishing.
If Jones’s comments were solely concerned with growing the game and finding ways to take rugby to new schools and unearth new talent, you would support him.
But that is not what he is saying. More than ever, sport is an important vehicle in promoting equality and diversity. You cannot achieve that by dismissing an entire group — it is not possible.
As a coach, you do not care one bit about where your players went to school. You pick them on merit.
To blame England’s failure to win big games on his players’ backgrounds is a total cop-out Part of coaching is creating decision-makers and leaders yourself.
That is just as an important part of the job as the work you do on the field. Jones cannot blame the school system for English rugby’s struggles.
There are brilliant people working in both private and state schools.
They are providing Jones with the tools to do something special by producing excellent players.
Make no mistake, England are the envy of the world when it comes to player development and the depth of talent. As their head coach you have zero excuses.
Harry Arundell attended Harrow school, and made his international debut in July
There is no doubt we have quality players in this country, just look at Henry Arundell.
Jones should be thanking the coaches at school level for bringing talent like Arundell through instead of criticising them.
How do the teachers who have helped develop players like Maro Itoje and Arundell at Harrow School feel after Jones’s comments? They have been belittled.
It may sound lofty, but as an international coach your responsibility, and that of your team, is to inspire the country and the next generation. How must the rugby-mad teenagers attending private schools feel after the England head coach dismissed their potential?
Twelve of the 23 players in the England squad for their last Test against Australia in July went to fee-paying schools. The other 11 went to state schools. The division is roughly equal.
Rugby is a game for everyone and I think the current England side represent the country well, not only in terms of educational background, but in social and racial diversity too.
The England football and cricket teams are in the same boat. That is to be applauded.
England should be looking forward on the back of a good — but by no means overly impressive — series win in Australia.
Instead, thanks to Jones’s comments, the narrative is negative not positive.
Jones also described England’s 2003 World Cup victory, for which I was head coach, as a ‘situational success’ with the implication that it was a one-off.
For me, the ‘situation’ was a simple one. We had an astonishing group of players and coaches who committed to becoming the No 1 team in the world.
Jones referred to England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup win as a ‘situational success’
Sir Clive Woodward coached England during their historic triumph in 2003
We did it by changing how the game was played and with a burning desire to inspire the country.
Describing 2003 as a blip does not do justice to what was a golden period of English rugby.
Moreover, it is an insult to the players of that era who paved the way for future generations.
This group of players have not been let down by their education, but by how the game has been run in this country since 2003.
The only reason 2003 can be described as a ‘situational success’ is because it is the only time the people involved got the ‘situation’ right.
Regardless of education, England have the talent to achieve the same level of success.
If only they could sort their own ‘situation’ out.