England head coach Eddie Jones was reprimanded by his employers at the Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Tuesday for criticising what he saw as the English game’s reliance on the private school system.
Jones said in a newspaper interview last weekend that “you are going to have to blow the whole thing up” because the current set-up creates “closeted” players who lack “resolve”.
The 62-year-old Australian’s comments were labelled “divisive and disrespectful” by England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.
An RFU statement said: “RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney spoke to the England head coach, Eddie Jones, on Sunday and confirmed the RFU’s position on the valued role the independent (fee-paying and private) sector plays in the player pathway.
“The most recent England men’s squad contained players who have benefited from time within independent schools, including Maro Itoje and Henry Arundell, as well as many from the state sector including Jonny Hill and Courtney Lawes.
“As a union, we are always working to broaden the appeal and accessibility of rugby union to boys and girls from a wide range of backgrounds,” it added.
Of the starting 15 that defeated Australia in last month’s series decider in Sydney, eight were either partially or fully educated at private schools.
The state sector provided the majority of England’s squad for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, where Jones’s men lost in the final to South Africa.
But Jones told the i newspaper: “If you have only been in a system where you get to 15, you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow (one of England’s leading private schools on a sports scholarship).
“Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything’s done for you. That’s the reality. You have this closeted life.
“When things go to crap on the field who’s going to lead because these blokes have never had experience of it? I see that as a big thing… When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be,” added ex-school teacher Jones.
Jones took charge after a dismal 2015 World Cup for England on home soil. He came under intense pressure earlier this year after his side lost three Six Nations matches for the second time in a row.
But last month’s 2-1 series success against the Wallabies has strengthed the position of Jones, who intends to stand down when his contract expires after the 2023 World Cup in France.
Rugby takes its name from Rugby School in the English Midlands, one of the fee-paying establishments former teacher Jones appears to disdain, where pupil William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up the ball and run with it during a 19th century game of football, although this version of events has been disputed by several historians.
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