England coach Eddie Jones has extended his contract until 2021, abandoning previous plans to leave the job after the 2019 World Cup, the RFU said on Wednesday.

The Australian’s successor will be named by the end of the 2019-2020 season and Jones will work with them to ensure “a smooth coaching transition”, the Rugby Football Union said.

Jones had been due to step down after next year’s World Cup in Japan but having overseen a run of 22 wins from 23 Tests, his employers have decided to lengthen the 57-year-old’s reign.

However, Jones’s new contract does include a break clause which can be activated if England’s performances at Japan 2019 fail to live up to expectations.

That will enable the RFU to cut the former Australia and Japan coach loose should England suffer a similar fate to their wretched 2015 World Cup campaign when they became the first tournament hosts to exit the competition at the group stage — a result that led the RFU to get rid of then coach Stuart Lancaster and bring in Jones.  

Jones, who had often talked about watching cricket — his other great sporting passion — in the Caribbean after the 2019 World Cup as a way of signalling that the tournament would mark the end of his time with England, explained his change of heart by saying: “I did not presume I would be asked to stay on but, once the conversations started very recently, it was not a difficult decision to make.

“Coaching England is a dream job for me, and I was delighted to be asked to stay on after Rugby World Cup 2019,” he added.

“I have been completely focussed on developing a team capable of being the number one rugby team in the world and winning the World Cup in 2019,” added Jones, who was the coach of the Australia side that lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney. 

“These are exciting times for English Rugby, with a focussed and committed squad who are full of potential and determined to win. I will continue to work as hard as I can to make England the world’s best rugby team.”

– ‘Galvanising force’ –

 RFU chief executive Steve Brown said Jones’ results “speak for themselves”.

“Under Eddie’s leadership, we have risen from eight to second in the world — and Eddie won’t be satisfied until we are number one.

“He has a 95 percent win rate at the helm, and has been a galvanising force for the RFU, bringing focus, clarity and extraordinary commitment to the role.”

Now the RFU will hope to avoid the disruption and indeed cost of having to enage in wholesale changes of coaching staff at the end of every four-year World Cup cycle.

Lancaster, together with assistant coaches Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree were given new deals in the build-up to England 2015 only to leave Twickenham after the Red Rose’s disastrous run at the showpiece tournament, after which Jones brought in his own backroom staff.  

“We now have a robust succession planning process in place which will avoid the historically disruptive pattern of resetting the coaching team and performance system every four years,” said Brown.

“Eddie will be a big part of this process, and wants to ensure a smooth handover to his successor.”

Jones is due to name reigning champions England’s squad for the Six Nations Championship on Thursday.

Injury-hit England, bidding to win an unprecedented third successive outright Championship, begin their title defence away to Italy in Rome on February 4. – Agence France-Presse

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