James Haskell: England sacking Eddie Jones is madness | Steve Borthwick 'would be brilliant' replacement
"It's utter madness. You've literally taken the most successful World Cup coach, and binned him nine months before a World Cup...just because of some grumpy old journalists, and miserable fans, who decided to gang up to get rid of him" - James Haskell to Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 07/12/22 10:11pm
Former England back-row James Haskell has labelled the RFU's decision to sack Eddie Jones as "utter madness", saying it was forced by "grumpy media and miserable fans."
Speaking to Sky Sports News on Wednesday, Haskell, who retired from playing in 2019 and played under Jones between 2016 and 2018, said he could not understand the decision to part with the experienced Australian.
"Personally, I think it's utter madness," he said.
"You've literally taken the most successful World Cup coach, with a 90 per cent [World Cup] winning record, and binned him nine months before a World Cup.
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"He's been to three World Cup finals [two as head coach, one as a technical adviser], he's won one [With South Africa as technical adviser, 2007], lost two [Australia head coach, 2003; England head coach, 2019].
"He took Japan to some of the biggest upsets they've ever had.
"And then the best thing is, the person they [the RFU] want to replace him with at this point in time, and obviously it's an ever-movable feast, is not available. So you're going to put someone else in charge for the Six Nations who hasn't been an international coach, just because of some grumpy old journalists, and miserable fans, who decided to gang up to get rid of him.
"Which is pretty much the story of the modern world: If you shout loud enough, and have enough fans in the media, you can achieve anything.
"No, I don't think England have [gone backwards]. I think the landscape of international rugby has changed, and the margins of victory are so small now.
"You obviously get some anomalies, like Wales vs New Zealand recently, 55-23, but the majority of games are won or lost by a few points.
"And that can come down to a malfunctioning set-piece at scrum or lineout, some clever individual brilliance, or an individual error. That's how close it is.
"I'm a very big fan of Bill Sweeney [RFU chief executive], and I think he's a good man. I haven't had a chance to catch up with him.
"Unfortunately, a lot of the time, it's if you upset people and you don't conform - and Eddie Jones doesn't conform.
"Does he get everything right? No. But I don't think anybody gets everything right.
"The margin of error for international sport comes down to inches. You look at some coaches and from the jaws of catastrophes, they've seized incredible careers, and if one thing had gone the other way, they wouldn't have had the success.
"Unfortunately, because Eddie doesn't play to the media's tune, there were some guys that didn't want him in there.
"The Six Nations was disappointing, the autumn internationals were disappointing, but not to the degree that there were catastrophic errors.
"What some of these older journalists are doing, who don't like Eddie, is they don't come and watch training, they don't speak to any of the current players, they're not particularly popular with the players because of their opinions, because they are there to sell newspapers.
"Then you have ex-coaches, who have agendas and vendettas, who are able to use their media platform to put things out there. It's not based on fact. It's rhetoric, it's nonsense.
"Talk about the players not being confident, the players losing their shine, players coming in and out of the squad. Eddie is there to put the best players on the field.
"I had five international coaches with England, and they were some of the worst environments I've ever been part of. Eddie Jones is by far and away the best coach I've ever worked with. He understood how to get the best out of the players, created a competitive and professional environment.
"And some of these journalists when they are recommending people to take over, they aren't in the same league as Eddie Jones.
"Ultimately, people aren't honest. And especially in rugby, because it's run by a lot of old school people, they perpetuate these narratives that aren't correct.
"I think it's a shame."
'Borthwick would be brilliant' | 'Twickenham crowd is not a great subsection of rugby fans'
Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick is favourite to take the job, but having not yet been announced, there is talk his release from Leicester may not be easy or swift.
While Haskell believes Borthwick to be a brilliant coach and a great option to replace Jones, he reiterated his thoughts that removing the Aussie was the wrong move, saying the reaction of England fans should not have come into things.
"If the person taking over is Steve Borthwick, I think he is utterly brilliant. I can't think of a better person to take over from Eddie Jones, he's the No 1 person I would have suggested.
"I didn't think in a million years they'd ever get him, because of what a good job he's doing with Leicester Tigers. If they get Kevin Sinfield [Leicester defence coach] as well, then England are in a good place and it's a nice transition.
"I'd say Eddie's downfall and where things have gone wrong, was consistency in coaches around him. I don't think he was surrounded with the right quality of coach, and I don't think they've delivered.
"I'm at a loss as to why you would do it [sack Jones]. And I think it's down to pressure from fans, pressure from the media, and it became untenable. And how do you reconcile not firing someone when everybody wants his head? Even though it's invalid.
"The Twickenham crowd is not a great subsection of rugby fans. It's a very corporate crowd. They get upset if you play music too loud, put too many fireworks up there, their prawn sandwiches aren't cold enough and their Guinness is flat. They do. I've seen it, I've been there.
"It's not as intimidating as the Principality Stadium, they are a bit fair-weather those Twickenham fans at times. They are amazing when they're on it. But when they're off, it's a quiet place.
"I think they boo because they are frustrated, because they don't necessarily understand the the bigger picture. And they boo because sports fans boo.
"When has rationality, understanding and being informed ever come into sport? It's about emotion, an escapism from your real life, tribalism, passion, carnage. That's what being a sports fan is.
"Whether the fans boo or not, I think is irrelevant. Because the Twickenham atmosphere is pretty flat anyway, it just means one bleeds into the other and it becomes a bit of a flat landscape.
"I don't think it's a great example of people's actual opinions. Most fans are pretty pleased with what Eddie Jones has done, he's the most successful England coach ever bar winning a World Cup.
"I can't understand it."
Does Borthwick or any England replacement have enough time before the 2023 World Cup?
"Yes, because the point is there's nothing wrong with this England side," Haskell replied. "There aren't glaring errors, or a lack of confidence.
"They are some great players who haven't played particularly well.
"Eddie Jones has never coached a team to play badly. What kind of madness would that be? Why would he inhibit them?
"The players just aren't playing well enough. Steve Borthwick will come in, having known that group of players, and will absolutely take them on.
"And this will be a catalyst to make England better, I hope. I just think the madness is getting rid of Eddie Jones when you've got a Six Nations.
"Never fire a coach unless you've got the guy you want in straight away."