England players are set to have a significant say over whether Eddie Jones keeps his job as head coach with the squad invited to give their feedback into the dismal Six Nations campaign as part of the English Rugby Football Union's review.
Jones is expected to learn his fate next week when the RFU completes its investigation – led by the chief executive Bill Sweeney – into England's fifth-place finish in the Six Nations that has seen them drop to fourth in the world rankings. Sweeney is heading a panel which is likely to also include the union's director of performance, Irishman Conor O'Shea, and may also feature former England players. Jones started his own debrief with his senior players and coaches on Sunday and will present his findings to Sweeney and the panel.
The review is expected to take up to 10 days to complete and it is understood players will also be given the chance to offer their views on a campaign in which England lost to Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the first time in 46 years. This is the second time England have finished fifth in the Six Nations under Jones and as a result of the latest campaign he is coming under increasing pressure, despite having guided England to a World Cup final less than 18 months ago.
Jones has a break clause in his contract ensuring that, while he is the highest paid coach in the world, it would not be prohibitively expensive for the RFU – which is anticipating losses of up to £35m this year – to part company with him before his deal expires after the 2023 World Cup.
A review into the 2019 World Cup was chaired by the former sports minister Hugh Robertson and afterwards Sweeney revealed how 27 of the 32 players had given feedback which was said to be "overwhelmingly positive". After Saturday's 32-18 defeat, two of Jones's senior players – Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola – gave him their full backing to stay on and guide England to the 2023 World Cup.
Behind closed doors, however, members of the squad, including those not considered to be among Jones’s “Undroppables”, can offer their opinions, most likely in groups as opposed to in anonymous surveys.
Speaking after England’s defeat in Dublin, Jones expressed confidence that he could turn England’s fortunes around – just as he did after the 2018 fifth-place Six Nations finish – but admitted his fate is ultimately out of his hands. Asked if he was still the right man to take England forward, Jones said: “That’s not the question at the moment. The question at the moment is that we need to play better. That’s for other people to answer, not for me to answer.”
Meanwhile, Sweeney is set to give evidence on Tuesday to the digital, culture, media and sport select committee as part of the UK government's inquiry into concussion in sport. The former England international Dan Scarbrough has revealed exclusively to the Guardian that he is joining the group of retired players bringing legal action against the RFU, the Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby, having been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
Scarbrough has been diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
World Rugby's chief medical officer, Éanna Falvey, will also give evidence, as will the former England scrumhalf and World Cup winner Kyran Bracken, and John Fairclough, on behalf of Progressive Rugby – a newly formed lobby group calling for urgent reforms to rugby union. When launching last month the group outlined their concerns for the sport they describe as being "threatened with extinction within a couple of generations" in an open letter to the World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont.
Sean Maitland is a notable absentee from Scotland's 29-man squad to face France on Friday after it emerged there was a limit to how many English Premiership players Gregor Townsend could select. The delayed match is taking place outside the official Test window so the Premiership clubs were under no obligation to release them. A financial agreement was reached over the weekend but Townsend has selected just five Premiership players – including his captain Stuart Hogg – with a number dropping out of the squad.
That is unlikely to please Wales, who will be crowned outright champions if France fail to beat Scotland with a bonus point and by a margin of 21 points. - Guardian