The public school rugby system is one reason that English players lack “resolve” and struggle to adapt to adversity on the pitch, according to Eddie Jones.
In an interview with the i newspaper, Jones said that English rugby union would eventually need to “blow the whole thing up” to engender change.
Speaking on the back of a 2-1 series win over Australia, the England head coach reiterated cultural concerns for the sport.
“They are good, tough players,” Jones said of those who have developed in England, where it is the norm for professional players to have attended public school, at least for sixth form.
“They work hard but they only know what they know. If you have only been in a system where you get to 15, you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow. Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything’s done for you. That’s the reality. You have this closeted life.
“When things go to crap on the field who’s going to lead? Because these blokes have never had experience of it. I see that as a big thing. When we are on the front foot we are the best in the world. When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be.”
Jones labeled Owen Farrell as “a warrior” and “by far our best 12” whose “unbelievable competitive spirit” had been forged despite these structures. With Jones due to leave his role as England head coach at the end of the 2023 World Cup in France, Rugby Football Union officials are pondering a succession plan.
He also told the i that England’s 2003 triumph was a “situational success” that had “nothing to follow”. For that to change, Jones believes, the sport must become more popular in wider society.
“It’s the way the players are educated,” he added. “I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve never seen kids in a park playing touch football [rugby]. Never. Zero. In the southern hemisphere they are all doing that, developing their skills. Here you see them playing football, but never touch football. That’s the problem.
“It’s all formal coaching, in a formal setting, in public schools. You are going to have to blow the whole thing up at some stage, change it because you are not getting enough skillful players through.”