“It’s important to stress that Eddie’s not in denial. He’s not quoting his win ratios, or previous tournaments or his record up to now. Not at all. He’s just totally focused on the now and going forwards. So he’s not in denial about this and he knows it’s going to be a thorough and brutally honest debrief. We need to get to the facts of it. We need to lift the hood up, have a look in there and say are we headed in the right direction?”
There have been questions, notably from Sir Clive Woodward, about how hard the RFU intend to hold Jones to account and whether they possess the necessary rugby expertise to do so. Conor O’Shea, the RFU’s director of performance rugby, will be sit on the panel. Last summer, he co-hosted a podcast with Jones and on Tuesday launched a stringent defence of the head coach’s desire. “He’s up for the fight, big time,” O’Shea said. “It’s the last emotion that’s hurting most of all. And that’s no-one trying to sweep anything under the carpet.”
Yet Sweeney rowed back on the suggestion that Jones holds too much sway within the RFU to face any meaningful consequences. “I would say that is wrong,” Sweeney said. “I would look them straight in the eye and say that is absolutely not the case. I know some people feel that is the perception, but he doesn’t have power and influence within Twickenham.
“I mean look at it now, there is massive accountability at the moment. But you have also got to allow your head coach to get on and do what he has to do. But Eddie is incredibly transparent with us, in terms of his thinking, his plans, where he’s going. And there are challenges to that.”
Sweeney was also prepared to censure Jones for his outburst last week in which he accused the media of spreading “rat poison”. “Yeah, I didn’t like that, I don’t think anyone welcomes that,” Sweeney said. “That doesn’t really help the cause. And we have had a chat about it.”
Meanwhile, the leading domestic candidate to replace Jones, Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter, confirmed he intends to see out his contract that runs through to 2023. “When I shake hands with Tony Rowe [Exeter chairman], when he says will you be here for the next three years and I say yes, that means a lot to me as well,” Baxter said.