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DANNY CIPRIANI: Eddie Jones was wrong to pin England’s failings on the private school system

DANNY CIPRIANI: England’s failings are NOT down to education… they are down to Eddie Jones. Let’s have a coach who takes responsibility and encourages players to think for themselves

  • Eddie Jones has blamed England’s lack of leadership on their private schooling
  • It is true that class bias in English rugby union means a lot of talent is missed
  • However, Jones needs to take more responsibility when his England side loses 
  • England’s lack of leadership comes from Jones’ style of coaching, not schooling

There is some merit to what Eddie Jones said when he criticised English rugby’s private school system.

The game in this country does have a class and participation issue in that it does not reach out to enough children from council estates or state schools.

There is a class bias shown at times. The result of that is talent being missed. This stems from the top of the Rugby Football Union and is not the fault of the schooling system.

Eddie Jones feels that English rugby players with private educations lack leadership skills

Eddie Jones feels that English rugby players with private educations lack leadership skills

Sportsmail columnist Danny Cipriani (right) wants Jones to take more responsibility for losses

Sportsmail columnist Danny Cipriani (right) wants Jones to take more responsibility for losses

Eddie said English rugby players who are educated privately do not develop enough leadership skills or the ability to deal with adversity because of their schooling. 

He believes England should ‘blow the whole thing up’ to try to improve the chances of future success. 

But the reason Eddie is not getting the type of players he says he wants is because of the environment he creates with England and not the schooling system. That is an easy target.

I’d like to think I come from a middle ground and a neutral perspective on this topic.

I grew up on a council estate but was fortunate to be able to attend private schools on scholarships because of my ability in rugby and other sports.

My education was at Donhead, Oratory School and Whitgift School. All three are great schools which I would likely not have had the chance to go to unless I was good at sport.

Cipriani (pictured, left) attended various private schools in his youth, including Whitgift School

Cipriani (pictured, left) attended various private schools in his youth, including Whitgift School

The private school system in England has allowed a lot of people to flourish and have successful rugby careers who might not have done so had they gone to other places of education. I count myself among that number.

Don’t get me wrong, the private system is not perfect. It misses a lot of potential talent.

Historically, there has been a systemic class issue within English rugby because of who the majority of the participants are.

The RFU do need to do more to make the game more inclusive for everyone. They needs to try to attract people from every class of society and increase participation.

At the professional level, players have been forced to take pay cuts and at the grassroots participation is down and the game itself is declining in some areas. A lot of that can be pointed back to how the RFU runs things. But that is a different point from the one which Eddie raised about the lack of leadership in his players.

England could learn a thing or two from Ireland, who have impressed in recent showings

England could learn a thing or two from Ireland, who have impressed in recent showings

Eddie should look at himself rather than criticise others. The environment you create as a coach is reflected by the performance of your team and players.

If a coach creates a decision-making environment which allows his or her players to problem solve, have an input on how the team is run, and is self-reflective of his or her own performance, then their side’s ability to react under pressure will grow. Eddie does not do that.

When the team loses, Eddie points the finger elsewhere. The situations he creates in training are all about generating quick ball. If the ball is not quick, then he turns it over.

The bigger question is: can your attacking framework create quick ball? 

Everyone wants quick ball, but it is not always possible and teams need to learn how to create it. England currently do not win games on their attack shape, unlike Ireland who are leading the way right now.

Cipriani feels Danny Care (pictured) was shunned by England as a result of confronting Jones

Cipriani feels Danny Care (pictured) was shunned by England as a result of confronting Jones 

When England are matched physically, that is when you see them struggle because they do not have the attacking structure to break teams down. Because the players are told exactly what to do by Eddie and how the game will go, they struggle to react when things do not go to plan.

Again, to be clear, this is not down to their education but is the fault of the England set-up, driven by Jones as head coach.

Often people say you need to ‘play the game’ with coaches because a lot of them do not like to have conversations on their ideas. They just want you to go on the field and do as they say.

Equally, a lot of players like to be told what to do. That is fine and works for some, but if you have too many players like that, it means you have a team who cannot think on their feet and react under pressure. 

As a player, you often get dismissed as trouble if you question the coach because there is a traditional hierarchy within the game.

Warren Gatland took a more open approach to coaching than that of Jones at this moment

Warren Gatland took a more open approach to coaching than that of Jones at this moment

I’ve been lucky in my career that some of my coaches like Shaun Edwards, Brian Ashton and Warren Gatland were open to hearing my views. Many others are not. Eddie is a coach who does not like to be questioned.

Any player who speaks his mind in this England environment is dismissed. Just look at what happened to Danny Care. 

He spent four years away because he confronted Eddie. Surely a coach who wants players to think for themselves would encourage two-way conversation?

The ability to solve problems on the pitch is key to being a successful team because no game, however much you plan or train, goes perfectly.

A good example of a team who are excellent at that are Harlequins, particularly in the season they won the Premiership. 

How many times did they come from behind to win games that year? It showed their players had leadership skills and the ability to bounce back from adversity. 

Two guys who were key to that success were Danny and Marcus Smith. But when they play for England, they do not play with the same freedom.

Marcus Smith struggles to replicate his impressive Harlequins form in an England shirt

Marcus Smith struggles to replicate his impressive Harlequins form in an England shirt

To me that speaks volumes of England’s environment under Eddie. He is in charge and all the messages come from him. That much has also been shown by the fact Eddie has had a total of 17 assistants since he took charge after the failure of the 2015 World Cup. The huge turnover of staff shows uncertainty and a lack of understanding within the environment.

For England to go to the next level and produce consistent, winning rugby, they need an environment which regularly challenges the players on their rugby intelligence and decision-making. If they get that, it will create a group who can problem-solve on the run in games.

Many things can be looked at in rugby and where the player pool comes from is one of them. 

But rather than focus on that, let’s start with an England coach who takes responsibility.

ED’S AN INSPIRATION, ON AND OFF THE FIELD

In this column I’ve talked a lot about the negative side of rugby and its problems, but the real beauty of the sport is the values it has and the people within it.

There is no one who sums that up better than Ed Slater. He was a brilliant rugby player, but more importantly he is a superb human being.

Ed has constantly grown on and off the field in his time with both Leicester and Gloucester and everyone in the game respects him hugely.

What is remarkable is that he has continued to grow as a person, even after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

I played with Ed at Gloucester and I went to see him a few weeks ago after the news had been released that he was suffering with MND.

Ed Slater was exhausted but overjoyed, raising over £300,000 for charity with his bike ride

Ed Slater was exhausted but overjoyed, raising over £300,000 for charity with his bike ride

As he had done when we were team-mates at Kingsholm, he inspired me with his attitude and I came away from our meeting full of admiration for how he is dealing with a life-changing event.

What Ed is doing right now is extremely powerful. For him to have raised more than £300,000 for MND research by cycling 350 miles this week is an amazing achievement. I take my hat off to him and the Gloucester players and staff for doing it.

A lot of players in English rugby have looked up to Ed over the years for not only the way he played, but also the way he carried himself. That hasn’t changed now, even though he has unfortunately been forced to retire.

It’s been great to see how the rugby world has rallied around Ed and his family in difficult circumstances and I hope that continues.

I wish him and his family all the best and truly mean that.

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