Before attention turns the Natwest Six Nations campaign, the England Rugby Football Union have pledged their allegiances to head coach Eddie Jones, who put pen to paper on a two-year contract extension on Wednesday morning.
Jones, who was originally contracted to the post until the culmination of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, will now remain at the RFU at the helm of English rugby until 2021.
The Australian tactician is clear in his ambitions to develop England into the number one side in the world, but this latest move from RFU CEO Steve Brown to nail colours to the mast for even longer ensures Jones can build an effective legacy.
Since taking up the reins of England in November 2015 Jones had clinched back-to-back Six Nations championships as well as series victories over Australia and Argentina.
“Coaching England is a dream job for me, and I was delighted to be asked to stay on after Rugby World Cup 2019,” reflected Jones as he extended his stay.
“I have been completely focussed on developing a team capable of being the number one rugby team in the world and winning the World Cup in 2019. I never take my role as England head coach for granted and did not presume I would be asked to stay on, but, once the conversations started very recently, it was not a difficult decision to make.
“These are exciting times for English Rugby, with a focussed and committed squad who are full of potential and determined to win. I will continue to work as hard as I can to make England the world’s best rugby team.”
While Jones’ current focus remains with building strength and depth to conquer the world in Japan, he will also have a clear eye on succession planning with his employers at the RFU.
Jones’ success has been clear to see and the trajectory of England rugby is rapidly spearheading towards the standards of the All Blacks, and both the RFU and Jones are clearly desperate to make sure this is not lost.
At present, there would be no outstanding candidate with the necessary international experience to take over so soon after the Rugby World Cup, but this shrewd signing means that whoever will be destined to take over will have the opportunity to be mentored and guided in midway through a Rugby World Cup cycle.
Former Saracens duo Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard feature heavily in Jones’ current England setup and will be considered as potential inheritors of the post, while Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has enjoyed phenomenal success on the domestic front, building a squad of home grown players from the Championship to Aviva Premiership winners.
Although silverware aplenty has arrived at Sandy Park in recent times, Baxter has no experience on the international stage, but should he be the man England want, this new extension paves way for those credentials to be enhanced.
All in all, as England prepare to defend their Six Nations crown and claim a remarkable hat-trick, the RFU have pulled off a brilliant move to concrete the culture, coaching and success of the Jones era over a prolonged period.