Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Bill Sweeney has claimed that the players were supportive of the governing body’s decision to axe head coach Eddie Jones.
After a disappointing 2022, which saw the Red Rose win just five of their 12 matches, the RFU decided to sack Jones just nine months out from the Rugby World Cup.
Steve Borthwick has since taken charge and oversees his first game when they take on Scotland in the Six Nations next month.
Players have publicly come out in support of Jones since his departure, but privately Sweeney says that they understand why the governing body have taken action.
Supporting the decision
“I spoke to a number [of players], Conor [O’Shea, the RFU’s director of performance rugby] spoke to a number. The conversations I had, without naming players because I don’t think it would be fair or reasonable to do that, were disappointed in terms of the decision of Eddie going but [had] a real understanding and support for the decision being made,” he told The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast.
“The ones that I spoke to said, ‘look we’re disappointed for Eddie, we like Eddie but we understand why the decision was taken’ and without naming players said, ‘we think it’s the right decision’. In terms of changing what needed to be changed to go into 2023 in a stronger position.
“One of them said to me, ‘I was misquoted in the media because what I said was I was disappointed for Eddie but I wasn’t disappointed in the RFU decision but that was reported as I’m disappointed in the decision’. So the ones I spoke to got the overall situation.”
Sweeney also insisted that the fans’ reaction during the recent Autumn Nations Series was not the reason Jones was sacked.
England were booed off following their defeat to South Africa in the final match of the year, a performance and result which showed that the Red Rose were some way behind the world’s best.
“Some things weren’t quite clicking, weren’t working the way we all thought they were going to work, probably the way Eddie thought they were going to work,” the CEO added.
“We reached the situation following the review where we felt some changes had to be made that probably Eddie wasn’t able to put into place just because of the tenure of the job.
“You sense the fans’ frustration. Nobody wants to hear booing at Twickenham after the South Africa match but that wouldn’t be a reason to make a decision to change the head coach, it was other factors.”
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