Thursday, December 1, 2022

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

As a head coach, I constantly wanted to minimize the number of distractions for my team.

Ahead of a big game against South Africa on Saturday, this England side were once again distracted by more headlines about Eddie Jones. I can’t believe the RFU is still allowing this to happen. Apparently there is nobody there who understands anything about top international sport and rugby in particular, which is bizarre in itself.

Jones’ name has been in the media spotlight this week, but not because of his role with England. It was for the wrong reasons. There has been much talk of what Jones will do after England and the latest team he has been linked with is USA on an eight-year contract.

Honestly, who cares? The whole thing bores me. I don’t care what Jones does next. What matters to me is how he and the England team are doing now, especially as World Cup year approaches.

Talking about the coach’s future doesn’t help any team. I don’t know where the USA story came from, but the RFU shouldn’t let it come out in the week of a big test. It’s the latest example that shows why Bill Sweeney and Conor O’Shea are completely overwhelmed on the board. It is a pity that the select committee of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department did not have time yesterday to question them about the way our international team is being managed.

If you believe Sweeney and O’Shea, a few reviews have been made, but only by people who wish to remain anonymous! There are things that you just can’t imagine.

You can’t 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 the bag.

Some reading this might argue that the England players are not being distracted by media talks about Jones’ future. Nothing is further from the truth. Keeping potential distractions to a minimum is an important coaching skill. These distractions are only amplified when they involve the head coach.

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

Look at the German soccer team at the World Cup in Qatar. I think they got distracted by their hand over mouth gimmick before their game against Japan. What happened? They lost and were on the wrong end of a big surprise.

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

England need to beat South Africa but there is nothing in Jones’ team to worry the Springboks. Whatever happens this weekend, I don’t think we learned much or anything from the fall campaign. It was a big missed opportunity for England.

I just don’t understand the constant chopping and switching. This time it’s in the pack. Ellis Genge is one of England’s best players. Genge has to start but was benched. I read that Jones talked about using players like Genge in the second half to take on South Africa’s ‘Bomb Squad’. I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree with this approach.

Two things. First, the best teams choose their side to win the game based on how they play, choose accordingly, and then spend a minimum of time worrying about the opponent. The moment you pick your team and try to go head-to-head with your rivals is the moment you come in second. We have fantastic players to choose from in England. Let’s trust it.

South Africa are a good but beatable team and with Rassie Erasmus constantly shooting them in the foot they are not short of distractions of their own. That wasn’t the case at the last World Cup final, when South Africa and Erasmus got it right.

Second, 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.

Then why doesn’t it start? I don’t accept this idea that players get tired and have to take off after 50 or 60 minutes to give new impetus, to give new impetus.

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

If I were Genge, I’d be angry about being benched. England could struggle without him and defeat would cap another disappointing November.

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