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SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England head coach Eddie Jones has RFU bigwigs in his pocket… it’s ridiculous!

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England have been distracted yet again by more headlines about Eddie Jones. I cannot believe the RFU keep allowing it to happen… they are totally out of their depth and the head coach has them in his pocket!

  • Eddie Jones’ name was front and centre in the media for all the wrong reasons
  • I don’t care what he does next – I care about how he and England are faring now
  • There is nothing in Jones’ team that will worry the Springboks on Saturday 
  • Ellis Genge is one of England’s best players but he will start on the bench 

As a head coach I constantly wanted to minimise the number of distractions to my team.

Ahead of a huge game with South Africa on Saturday, this England side have been distracted yet again by more headlines about Eddie Jones. I cannot believe the RFU keep allowing it to happen. Clearly there is no one there who understands top-level international sport and especially rugby, which in itself is bizarre.

This week, Jones’ name was front and centre in the media but not because of his role with England. It was for all the wrong reasons. There has been lots of talk about what Jones is going to do after England and the latest team he has been linked to is the USA on an eight-year deal.

Eddie Jones’ name was front and centre in the media for all the wrong reasons this week

Frankly, who cares? I’m bored by the whole thing. I don’t care what Jones does next. What I do care about is how he and the England side are faring now, especially as World Cup year approaches.

Talk over the coach’s future does not help any team. I don’t know where the USA story came from, but the RFU should not be allowing it to come out in the week of a big Test. It is the latest example which shows why Bill Sweeney and Conor O’Shea are totally out of their depth at the governing body. It is a shame the select committee for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport did not have time to question them yesterday about the way our international team is run.

If you believe Sweeney and O’Shea, a review has been done a couple of times but only by people who do not wish to be named! There are some things you just cannot make up.

They do not stand up to Jones. They nod when he tells them to nod. He does what he wants. Frankly, Jones has both Sweeney and O’Shea in his pocket.

Some reading this might argue the England players will not get distracted by media talk about Jones’s future. Nothing is further from the truth. Keeping possible distractions to a minimum is a key coaching skill. These distractions are just magnified if they involve the head coach.

Jones will leave his post with the Red Roses after the completion of the World Cup next year

Jones will leave his post with the Red Roses after the completion of the World Cup next year

England allowed themselves to get distracted by external factors after beating New Zealand in the semi-finals of the last World Cup. The result was they lost the final to South Africa, who were by far the better team. Distractions and a loss of focus can kill any team and did that day.

Look at the German football side at the World Cup in Qatar. I think they got distracted by their hands-over-the-mouth gimmick ahead of their game with Japan. What happened? They lost and were on the wrong end of a huge upset.

At the top, top level, all these little things add up which is why as a head coach you want to minimise and eradicate all of them if possible. The coach’s future should be kept out of the media.

England need to beat South Africa but there is nothing in Jones’s team that will worry the Springboks. Whatever happens this weekend, I don’t think we will have learned much, if anything, from the autumn campaign. It has been a huge missed opportunity for England.

Ellis Genge is undoubtedly one of England's best players but he will start on the bench against South Africa on Saturday

Ellis Genge is undoubtedly one of England’s best players but he will start on the bench against South Africa on Saturday

I just don’t understand the constant chopping and changing. This time it is in the pack. Ellis Genge is one of England’s best players. Genge must start but he has been dropped to the bench. I’ve read Jones talking about bringing on players like Genge in the second half to match South Africa’s ‘Bomb Squad’. I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree with that approach.

Two things. First, the best teams pick their side to win the match by the way THEY play, select accordingly, and then spend a minimum of time worrying about the opposition. The moment you select your team trying to match up to your rivals is the moment you are destined to come second. We have fantastic players to pick from in England. Let’s be confident in that.

South Africa are a good but beatable side and with Rassie Erasmus continually shooting them in the foot, they are not short of distractions of their own. That was not the case in the last Word Cup final when South Africa and Erasmus did everything right.

South Africa have plenty of distractions of their own with controversial director of rugby Rassie Erasmus

South Africa have plenty of distractions of their own with controversial director of rugby Rassie Erasmus

Second, you pick your best players to start the game and keep them on the field for as long as possible. Genge is undoubtedly in England’s first-choice XV.

So why is he not starting? I don’t buy this notion that players get tired and need taking off after 50 or 60 minutes for fresh replacements charged with adding new impetus.

Players should be fit enough to play 80 minutes and with the way rugby is today, the average ball-in-play time is nowhere near that number. It is more like 35 minutes.

If I was Genge I would be furious about being benched. England might struggle without him and a defeat would cap another underwhelming November.

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