London — Wallabies great Matt Giteau insisted England had made a “big mistake” in sacking head coach Eddie Jones nine months out from a Rugby World Cup.
Jones’ seven-year reign as England boss ended on Tuesday following a Rugby Football Union review of an Autumn Nations Series that featured defeats by Argentina and South Africa.
Those reverses contributed to England suffering their worst year since 2008, with the team losing six out of 12 Tests in 2022.
And not even Jones’ excellent World Cup record, which includes taking England to the final three years ago, was enough to keep the 62-year-old Australian in his post ahead of the 2023 edition in France.
Giteau, who played in a 2003 World Cup final where an Australia side coached by Jones lost to England, was unimpressed.
“It would have to be the silliest thing they could do to the English rugby team,” Giteau said on Twitter.
The former centre, capped 103 times by Australia, added: “He (Jones) plans & plans & plans years in advance for this competition (World Cup). It’s the one competition that he has got consistently right time and time again. Big mistake imo (in my opinion).”
But Clive Woodward, the coach of the England side that won a memorable final 19 years ago, said his old rival had developed an unhealthy obsession with the World Cup.
“I am always sorry to see people lose their job, but Eddie Jones has been badly distracted since the last World Cup and he’s paid the price,” wrote Woodward in his Daily Mail column.
“He is a much better coach than he has shown over the past three years. He is a shadow of the Jones I competed with, and whose first years with England were so successful and rightfully applauded.”
England, however, have now lost six of their last 10 matches in the Six Nations, with Woodward saying of Jones: “He became completely focused on the 2023 World Cup, and that was a costly error.
“International rugby is very simple: focus everything on the next game with absolutely zero distractions. The fans who pump the money into the sport didn’t buy his hype.”
Woodward added: “What will Jones’ legacy be? The semi-final victory over New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup was his best performance, but unfortunately, he will be remembered for the misguided rhetoric and unfulfilled promises.
“I don’t think history will remember this period of English rugby too kindly.”