England can’t offer Eddie Jones ‘unconditional’ support despite win over Springboks
(CNN) – England may have ended its losing streak with victory over South Africa, but there’s no guarantee Eddie Jones’ position as head coach is secure in the long term.
Jones has come under fire after his side suffered five-straight losses — a run that stretched back to February — and Saturday’s 25-10 victory over the Springboks in Cape Town will be a welcome relief for the beleaguered Australian.
A try from wing Jonny May and 20 points from the boot of Owen Farrell helped England to a first ever victory at Newlands, a ray of light at the end of a 2-1 series defeat.
But Andy Cosslett, chairman of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), says he can’t offer complete assurance that Jones will lead the team through the 2019 World Cup. He is due to meet with Jones to review the tour when the team returns this week.
“You’re asking for unconditional support but only my children get that. And even then not always,” Cosslett told reporters in Cape Town.
“It’s not something you give because you’re under assessment the whole time. It’s just not what we do. There are 600 people in the RFU and we don’t go around telling them they’re all supported.
“We have shown a lot of confidence in Eddie and we think he is still the man, but we will see where it goes to from here in terms of the next few months.”
A ‘rough run’ ended?
Jones’ tenure at the helm of England’s rugby team has been a tale of two halves.
He signed a two-year contract extension at the start of this year after winning 22 of his 23 tests since taking charge in 2015, a deal to secure his services through the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
England went undefeated in Jones’ first 18 games in charge — a record matched only by the All Blacks amongst Tier One sides — before enduring a wretched run of form that included losses to Scotland, France, Ireland and South Africa.
“We’ve had a rough run of results, not least the players and the coaching team, and they’ve worked very hard to get out of it,” said Cosslett.
“We all recognize that sometimes you get in a rut and it looks like you’re never going to get out of it. We have and that’s really important.
“Eddie came to our union when it was at its lowest ebb after the  World Cup, grabbed it and applied what we hoped he’d apply. He took us on an extraordinary run and has tremendous credit for what he’s done. We’re very grateful to him for what he did at a time when we needed it most.”
Jones drew criticism before the series, and pressure mounted following the opening two defeats to South Africa.
There’s been changes amongst the coaching staff as defense coach Paul Gustard agreed to take charge of English club side Harlequins next season before traveling with the team to South Africa, while Scott Wisemantel came in as attack coach following the disappointing Six Nations campaign.
‘A stronger position’
As far as Jones is concerned, Saturday’s result was a huge boost.
“We want to be the best team in the world and you have to go through these periods to find out things about yourself,” he told BBC Sport. “We have done that. Now we want to kick on.
“Every test is tough for England. It’s a difficult environment coaching England, but I love it. This week I have enjoyed the challenge of getting a side back in a winning position.
“I think [this series] actually put us in a stronger position. It’s been an absolutely important part to renew the side.”
While England scrapped to get back on track in South Africa, northern hemisphere rival Ireland was making history on the other side of the Indian Ocean.
Joe Schmidt’s side overcame Australia 20-16 in Sydney to record Ireland’s first ever series victory over a southern hemisphere opponent and secure its berth as the second-best team in the world behind the All Blacks.
Wales has also impressed on its travels after beating South Africa in Washington and twice triumphing over Argentina.
International rugby now takes a break and will resume in four months’ time when teams will test their mettle a year out from the World Cup.