England coach Eddie Jones wants his team to become the “powerhouse of world rugby” but has admitted he made a mistake in his selection for the World Cup final.
The 59-year-old Australian, who has committed to seeing out his contract which runs until 2021, is not renowned for owning up to errors.
But he says part of the blame for the 32-12 defeat by South Africa in the final lay with his decision to start with George Ford and Mako Vunipola ahead of Henry Slade and Joe Marler.
“I had been right against Australia and New Zealand but, as it turned out, in the biggest game of our four-year cycle, I got it badly wrong,” writes Jones in his soon-to-be-published autobiography ‘My Life and Rugby’ which is being serialised in The Times.
“Hindsight is a wonderful teacher.”
Jones has turned England’s fortunes round after taking over following their humiliating pool-stage exit in the 2015 World Cup.
A crushing victory over two-time defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals last month has given Jones plenty of enthusiasm to continue, but he has stopped short of committing to taking the team to the 2023 World Cup.
“I am definitely staying as England’s coach for another two years,” says Jones.
“My contract runs until 2021. I’m excited by what our young team can achieve.
“The potential is massive. Not only are they great rugby players but they are better people with outstanding character.
“I believe I can keep making a difference with them over the next two years. We want to become the powerhouse of world rugby.
“After that? We’ll see. It’s too early to know and, right now, I am happy to just hit the pause button.”
– ‘A lasting impact’ –
Jones, who says the win over the All Blacks is one of four matches in his long career that stand out for him, including Japan’s epic victory over the Springboks in the 2015 World Cup, accepts his days as a national coach are drawing in.
“I know the clock is ticking on my time at the top of international coaching,” he said.
“But I feel privileged to coach England and, for however long that lasts, I will give my best effort every day.
“We’ve taken a side that couldn’t get out of the group stage in a home World Cup to being the second-best team in the world.
“There was one team ahead of us, and 18 behind us.”
In spite of England’s failure in the final, Jones — who concedes the Springboks were “outstanding” — remains fiercely proud of what they achieved.
“In the final minutes my mind starts to wander,” he writes.
“My first thoughts are for the players. They will be distraught.
“They have been brilliant, coming together as a powerful, united England team which has done everything asked of it and more.”
Jones believes the squad have given the country a welcome distraction from the divisions created over Brexit.
“They have played with flair and tenacity and, during a difficult and uncertain time at home, they have given people something to smile about,” he says.
“The subsequent news that the final was watched by the biggest television audience in the UK this year (over 12.5 million), and that supplies of replica jerseys had sold out, proved the boys had made a lasting impact.”