Eddie Jones sacked as England Rugby coach, Steve Borthwick to take over

Eddie Jones sacked as England Rugby coach, Steve Borthwick to take over

Eddie The Lip finally ran out of things to say. Eddie the Abrasive couldn’t bring himself to eat humble pie.

Eddie the Sharp-shooter fired too many duds. Eddie, mate, finally ran out of road, ran out of rope, and, crucially, ran out of mates.

The boos that rang out at Twickenham only ten days ago after England’s inept, lovelorn, dispiriting defeat to the Springboks turned out to be the death-knell for the Australian (funny how we’ve started to reference his nationality now that it has all gone belly-up ).

The head coach of a national team can lose a few matches. What he can never afford to do is lose hearts and minds. Jones’s support base was running on empty.

Eddie Jones, Head coach of England poses for a portrait during the England Rugby World Cup 2019 squad photo call on September 15, 2019 in Miyazaki, Japan. (Photo by Michael Regan - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Eddie Jones. (Photo by Michael Regan – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

It had to come to this, a humiliating sacking only 10 months before the start of a Rugby World Cup. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce, as they say. Jones suffered the same ignominious fate with Australia in 2005, led to the union’s gallows still pleading his fitness for purpose, still clinging to the notion that he could bring home the World Cup goodies that had been denied him by the man who was to become his arch critic, Clive Woodward.

You have to hand it to Eddie – he doesn’t want for self-belief. And that’s fair enough as even his record with England illustrates. A win ratio of 73% from 81 games in charge is better than any who have gone before him. A world record equalling 18 Test victories in a row, three Six Nations titles, a 2016 whitewash of the Aussies and an invigorating run to the 2019 World Cup final (where there was a mystifying collapse of form which was, in many ways, a prelude of what was to come).

But, as has been the case throughout his career, there is a flip side to Eddie Jones, in terms of substance as much as of style, in his record as in his personality, the old Bad Cop, Good Cop routine, a split personality in many ways.

Jones is invigorating company, engaged, wise, imaginative and streety-smart. He can be kind and empathetic, too, as shown many times away from the cameras and notebooks when he would pitch up somewhere and do a coaching clinic. But the Bad Cop was a nightmare, as the legions of staff that have been and gone (and probably headed straight to therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) would testify, a churn of personnel that showed no sign of slowing.

His routine acerbic put-downs of journalists is small beer by comparison, a jousting that many of my former colleagues will come to yearn for once they have had to sit through a few Steve ‘Dead Bat’ Borthwick press conferences.

An Aussie media mate texted me as I was walking from Twickenham Station to attend Jones’ arrival press conference in December 2015. “You do know that this will end in tears, don’t you,” was the wily old bird’s message, a veteran of many years on the Jones beat.

A few yards down the road towards the stadium my phone beeped again. “Eddie Jones is the most obnoxious person I’ve come across in professional rugby.”

Yet all was smiles and bonhomie as Jones was unveiled by the RFU, a union desperate to move on from the despair of the 2015 World Cup when England became the first hosts not to make it out of their pool. Well, all was sweetness and light until we were all about to wrap when a Japanese TV reporter piped up from the back of the room. ‘Mr Jones-san. Japanese players say that you are the devil.”

Blimey. That was a line to quieten the crowd. We may all have been on the back foot. Eddie wasn’t. “One day the devil, mate,” came the reply. “The next day an angel.”

In a nutshell that was, and is, Eddie Jones. He knows himself. Bob Dwyer once told me that Eddie can’t help himself sometimes, that he is incapable of keeping his mouth shut and that it would invariably get him into trouble.

One-liner Eddie did get himself into bother several times during his seven year tenure with England. The accumulation of such incidents meant that his friends in high places became more and more of an endangered species.

Ultimately, though, it was England’s dismal record over the last couple of years that did for him. And that was the way it had to be. Ireland and France are a long way ahead of England at the moment in terms of their winning ways.

Factor in too that both camps appear content and fruitful. The fact that two Englishmen, Andy Farrell with Ireland and Shaun Edwards across the Channel, are closely involved in that success only adds grist to the Twickenham sore. There are some who will say that it is madness to get rid of such an accomplished operator so close to a World Cup.

Well, maybe, it’s a legitimate argument but the sense of misery and discontent that has pervaded English rugby had to be addressed. Twickenham Man will fork out handsomely for tickets just as long as you don’t take the piss. They spoke and the RFU listened.

England have got a stack of talented players to call on. As Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have illustrated so vividly with England cricket, a change in the mood music can bring about an immediate upturn in fortunes.

It is just as well that the man destined for the hot seat, Steve Borthwick, will be judged on results, for his gay wit and ready repartee leave a lot to be desired.

However the former England captain, and long-standing Jones’ lieutenant, is hugely respected among the players. England will be in better shape although Borthwick will have to add an attack coach of note given that it is not his speciality. On that does so much rest.

No matter what stoical face he might present to the world, Jones will be shattered by this development. He has wielded the axe himself many times so perhaps we should not indulge our sympathies too much. But he will know deep within that he has blown it. This was a wasted, wasted opportunity.

Yes, my Aussie mate, you were right. It did end in tears.