LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones has extended his contract to 2021 and he will work with his eventual successor in the final year, though the handover process might be cut short if England fail again at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Jones, who has won 22 of his 23 tests since taking over from Stuart Lancaster at the end of 2015, was originally contracted until the end of next year’s World Cup.
The new deal runs for a further two years, including a year mentoring his successor in a first for England, but includes a break clause based on England’s performance in Japan.
Jones has often spoken of looking forward to his retirement trips to the West Indies but that enticing prospect has been postponed after what he said was an easy decision.
“It’s exciting for me to be involved in what is a unique situation in world rugby, in trying to create that succession,” he said at a hastily-convened news conference at Twickenham on Wednesday.
“I’d love to be in Barbados in 2021, I’ll get there eventually, watching an England team being coached by a super team of coaches and playing better rugby than they’ve ever played.
“The first priority is still to win the World Cup and then to make sure the guy taking over has a good team and good structure.”
“New Zealand has shown that if you get the right coaching team in place it can aid the sustainability of the team. It’s easy for any team to have a successful period of time; the most difficult thing is to be sustainable.”
The succession plan, however, depends on Jones not suffering the same fate as Stuart Lancaster, who was out of a job less than a year after being given a six-year contract following his 2015 World Cup failure.
The RFU’s CEO Steve Brown declined to give details of exactly what “success” in 2019 would represent for Jones and England, who are scheduled to face New Zealand in the semi-finals if the pool phase and quarter-finals run to form.
“We won’t go into specifics but the focus is on winning the World Cup,” Brown said. “We have a position that’s really clear if we don’t.”
Brown said the succession plan would involve the future head coach working with Jones until mid-2021, before taking over to lead England into the 2023 World Cup in France.
“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,” Brown said.
Brown added that the process of identifying the new man was already underway.
“We want the best coach for England not necessarily the best English coach,” he said.
Australian Jones, 57, has led England to consecutive Six Nations triumphs as well as series wins in Australia and Argentina, taking them to number two behind New Zealand in the world rankings. He is the highest-paid national coach in the sport, earning a reported 500,000 pounds ($690,000) per year.
Jones’s departure in 2021 would leave him available to lead the British and Irish Lions in South Africa that year, albeit with some potential shuffling as Lions officials now like their man to be full-time with them for much of the season preceding a tour.
Jones is likely to find the prospect appealing having achieved notable coaching success with England, Japan, South Africa and Australia. However, he predictably dodged the issue on Wednesday, saying his focus was entirely on England.
“I’m not arrogant or presumptuous enough to think I would be offered the Lions role,” he said.
Brown said the new contract would not prohibit Jones taking over the Lions.
“If we’ve come out of very successful World Cup and Eddie is the right coach for the Lions, the arrangement isn’t going to preclude that,” he said.
Of more immediate interest to both men is England’s defence of their Six Nations title. Jones will be back at Twickenham on Thursday to name his squad ahead of England’s opening game in Italy on Feb. 4.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips,; Editing by Ed Osmond