Eddie Jones has suggested Steve Borthwick’s age could be problematic in his new role as England head coach and that his successor will need to keep his cool if media goodwill and Rugby Football Union support falters .
In an extensive interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Jones also responded to reports that Max Malins was left in tears after an alleged training ground swap during the 2022 Six Nations.
Jones was let go following a review in a fall series that included just one win in four matches. Bill Sweeney, the RFU’s chief executive, later explained that a panel felt England needed more ‘momentum’ ahead of the World Cup year. It precipitated the appointment of Borthwick, 43,
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Jones reiterated his belief that England are on track for 2023 under his stewardship. He did, however, underline his pride that Borthwick, a longtime colleague with Japan and England, would take over.
“He’ll be fantastic,” Jones said of Borthwick. “We trained together for nine years. I brought him in as a coach with Japan and he’s a fantastic assistant coach. One of the things I’m proud of is that one of my tasks was to create the next England manager, so I did.
“The most difficult thing for him is that he is still quite young. He is 41 years old (sic). But he is quite mature. The test will be when the pressure mounts, when the media starts attacking him, maybe the support at the top starts to waver a bit. How he can keep his cool. But he’s a good man.”
Jones described his seven years in charge of England as “like a dream”, suggesting the RFU sees itself as superior to other sporting organisations. “If there was a class structure in rugby, England would see themselves, describe themselves and act as if they were the queen of the world. That’s the reality,” Jones added.
Regarding the alleged incident involving Malins, which allegedly happened before the player was dropped from the England squad for the final Six Nations game against France last season, Jones did not recall exact details and said “someone must have a wild imagination”.
“I’ve had a lot of players in tears, but not because of what I did, sometimes it’s because of what they did,” Jones added. “I think tears are much more common in men now than they were 20 years ago. I don’t remember the situation at all.