LONDON (Reuters) - Eddie Jones has decided to stay on as England coach through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France after concluding “the project hadn’t finished,” the Australian said on Thursday.
Jones, whose contract was set to expire in August 2021, had been in talks over a new deal since guiding England to the 2019 World Cup final, where they lost to South Africa.
“Having done the four years I felt the project hadn’t been finished and there is still a lot of growth in the team,” Jones, who is currently in Japan, told a media teleconference.
“I want to make sure I can still improve the team so it’s a good fit for me. It’s a relatively young side and I think I can add to the growth of the team.”
Having just fallen short at the World Cup - after also losing in the final against England when coach of Australia in 2003 - Jones said he wanted to use the Six Nations as a gauge.
England lost their opener to France but victories over Scotland, Ireland and Wales put them in a strong position to take the title, before the championship was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Six Nations was quite important as I wanted to make sure I could have an effect, and I believe I can,” he said. “I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right.”
No dates are in place for the remaining Six Nations games, and with England’s planned summer tour of Japan unlikely to go ahead and uncertainty over the four scheduled November internationals, Jones’s usually meticulous planning has had to be put on hold.
“It’s about controlling what you can control,” said the 60-year-old Australian, who has taken a temporary pay cut of 25% as the RFU battles with its finances in the face of the coronavirus.
“But our problems are quite insignificant compared to the rest of the world so we’ll keep everything in perspective. Then when we do come back, we want to play with pride and passion and give people something to enjoy. In the meantime we have just to play our roles in being good citizens and help support as much as we can.”
The details of the new deal were concluded several weeks ago and the RFU announced the deal on Thursday, saying they wanted to “share some good news in exceptionally difficult times.”
“We have announced the extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that,” said CEO Bill Sweeney.
Since taking charge of England at the end of 2015, Jones has won 42 of his 54 matches, giving him a win ratio of 78%, the best of any England coach.
Jones, who has won two Six Nations titles, will surpass World Cup winner Clive Woodward as England’s longest-serving coach if he completes a second World Cup cycle.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru/Mitch Phillips; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis