The rumours started in earnest earlier this week when the odds were slashed dramatically on Eddie Jones becoming England's next head coach. On Wednesday evening Neil Squires of the Express filed an exclusive that Eddie Jones would be appointed in the next 48 hours and that is exactly what happened as the RFU announced at 7am on Friday morning that the Australian would become England's first ever overseas coach.
The recent work of Eddie Jones was evident for all to see on Saturday 19 September at the Brighton Community Stadium where his Brave Blossoms delivered the most surprising and well orchestrated victory that has been seen at a Rugby World Cup. From that point forwards the Japanese side delivered an unprecedented run of results causing them to be the first side in the competition's history to win three pool matches but to not progress through to the knockout stages.
In spite of Ian Richie describing the vacancy as 'a very attractive job within rugby' since Stuart Lancaster's departure eight days ago the list of 'potentials' was dwindling at an alarming rate. Obviously none of us will know how these individuals were ranked and whether or not Eddie was first choice. If he was, then this appointment will be greatly satisfying for the man whose role is very much under the spotlight with this appointment.
Eddie Jones' career ticks the critical 'international experience' box well and en route to this point his coaching experiences have seen him cross cultures and countries. Amongst other achievements he is the man credited to finding and developing George Smith with the Brumbies, taking the Australian national side to a 2003 RWC runners up medal and being a highly influential part of South Africa's 2007 RWC victory as their 'technical advisor'. So many individuals that have worked directly with the Australian cannot sing his praises highly enough and as an individual he is a strong character.
In recent weeks Eddie hasn't been shy about coming forwards in terms of key aspects of England's governance. Indeed he has openly criticised the inability of England's head coach to be able to control his own players saying to ESPN;
"How can you manage your players when they are controlled by other organisations? In my opinion, that is the single greatest task ahead of whoever is going to be appointed as the next England coach. Wales, Ireland and Scotland - unlike England, Italy and France - all have centralised contracting systems. The union controls the players. As a consequence, they produced competitive teams and vibrant performances at the recent World Cup."
The question is will he decide to do something about this immediately in his role? If so what affect will that have on relationships with clubs? Or will he arrive and focus on the initial task at hand, selecting an EPS squad for the the RBS 6 Nations and delivering in that competition... leaving the policy changing aspects until later?
Another area Eddie has been open about is what he deems 'England need a proper open-side flanker', direct criticism of current captain and number 7 Chris Robshaw. Just what will that strong opinion mean for the future of the Harlequin on the International stage?
Speaking prior to, what turned out to be his final match in charge,back Stuart Lancaster's advice to himself three years ago would have been; 'Good luck, get a tin hat and a flak jacket', continuing;
"It's a brilliant job but it's a tough job. I think people underestimate the complexity of how injuries, form, fitness, the EPS agreement, having so many players and the must-win game nature of England rugby affect the decisions you've got to make. I understand that, not having nailed a Six Nations or a grand slam and certainly not having nailed this World Cup there is no room for error."
There are a number of pertinent issues that Eddie Jones will need to address, how does he pick up a squad and motivate a squad that will be so disappointed after a failed World Cup? How does he manage the relationships with Premiership Clubs and the current policies in place? And of course which individuals will make up his coaching team?
Without question the pressure of England's top role is immense, the union with the greatest resources and greatest player base in the world should be the one that is pushing the sport forwards and leading the charge. Currently England are not however my great hope is that this appointment is a successful one and one that leads to a very bright future for England Rugby.Suggest a correction