According to Eddie Jones, the public school rugby system is one of the reasons why English players lack “determination” and struggle to adapt to adversity on the pitch.
In an interview with the i-newspaper, Jones said the English Rugby Union would eventually have to “blow the whole thing up” to bring about change.
Speaking on the back of a 2-1 series win over Australia, the England head coach reiterated cultural concerns for the sport.
“They’re good, tough players,” Jones said of those who developed in England, where it’s the norm for professional players to go to public school, at least for sixth grade.
“They work hard, but they only know what they know. If you’ve only been in a system where you get to 15 you have a bit of rugby skill and go to Harrow. Then you do nothing but play rugby for two years, everything is done for you. That’s the reality. You have this life in the closet.
“If things go haywire on the pitch, who’s going to be in charge? Because these guys have never had any experience with it. I see that as something big. When we’re at the forefront, we’re the best in the world. If we’re not at the forefront, our ability to find a way to win, our determination, is not as it should be.”
Jones labeled Owen Farrell “a warrior” and “by far our best 12” whose “incredible competitive spirit” was forged despite these structures. With Jones set to leave his role as England head coach at the end of the 2023 World Cup in France, Rugby Football Union officials are considering a succession plan.
He also told the i that England’s 2003 victory was a “situational success” that “has nothing to follow”. To change that, Jones believes, the sport needs to become more popular in wider society.
“It’s the way the players are trained,” he added. “I’ve been here for seven years now and I’ve never seen kids play touch football in a park” [rugby]. Never. Zero. In the southern hemisphere, they do all that and develop their skills. Here you see them playing football, but never touching football. That’s the problem.
“It’s all formal coaching, in a formal setting, in public schools. You’re going to have to blow the whole thing up at some point, change it because you don’t get enough skilled players through it.”