Sweeney calls for calm ahead of Six Nations review

Mitch Phillips
·3-min read
Six Nations Championship - Ireland v England

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Bill Sweeney, CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), said his organisation would react, but not over react, as it reviewed England's calamitous performance in the Six Nations and coach Eddie Jones's role in it.

The defending champions produced their worst performance for 45 years as they finished fifth, losing to Scotland, Wales and Ireland, with an excellent win over France and a routine dismissal of a dismal Italy the only high points.

The RFU reviews every tournament, but this one, carried out by a secret panel could be the most painful of Jones's tenure since he took over following the 2015 World Cup failure.

"Eddie doesn’t go into a Six Nations expecting to come fifth, which is why we are going to have a thorough debrief," Sweeney told reporters on Tuesday.

"I think it’s really important at this stage we apply a bit of good old English calm. We have to react -- you can’t just do nothing and we won't do nothing -- but at the same time it’s important we don’t over react.

"Let's just get this in context, let the dust settle for days rather than weeks, but we will kick off that debrief process. We won't leave any stone unturned in terms of really understanding it. It needs to be a thorough, brutally honest analysis of what went wrong and why and what the issues are. We certainly don’t want it to be an opportunity to wallow in excuses.

"We want to look at the more fundamental issues of, are there any learnings from this in terms of how does this impact our thinking to go through to the 2023 World Cup?"

When Jones took over in 2016 he said that he should be judged on the 2019 World Cup and England were superb there until the final when they were blown away by South Africa.

His extended contract now takes him up to the 2023 tournament in France.

"I think you have to recognise and respect Eddie’s achievement since he’s been here -- three Six Nations championships, a Grand Slam, a World Cup final, that is a tremendous performance," Sweeney said.

"But he wants to understand this as much as anybody and we want to sit down and let him talk to us in terms of what happened."

Asked if Jones could lose his job or whether there would be changes to his team of assistants, Sweeney said: "I don't think I could honestly answer that.

"I spoke to him on Sunday. He's as disappointed as we are. It's been an unusual year but I think we’ll exclude all of the more unusual factors and we really want to get to the heart of any concerns we have."

Jones won the Six Nations in each of his first two years but then had a terrible 2018, also finishing fifth, only to bounce back to finish second in 2019 and reach the World Cup final.

Sweeney said he was wary of using that comparison to say everything would be fine. "You don't want to say 'we did that in 2018, everything's fine' because of where we ended up.

"It's a strange situation when you look at the ages and the numbers of caps, it's a young squad yet we're in a period of transition in some key areas. When you are in that period of transition you may expect a bit of turbulence but you want to make sure you are heading in the right direction."

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Clare Fallon)