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Jones extends England deal, but RFU insert exit clause to protect against World Cup flop

England head coach Eddie Jones.
England head coach Eddie Jones.
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England’s decision to extend Eddie Jones’s contract until 2021 was motivated by the need to avoid the confused succession planning of the past, according to Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown.

Jones has been given an additional two years as reward for his success in overseeing a run of 22 wins from 23 Tests, a sequence that features consecutive NatWest 6 
Nations titles including a Grand Slam.

The Australian was due to step down after the 2019 World Cup but will now work alongside his eventual successor, who the RFU hope to appoint by 2020, until his departure.

The search for a replacement – who Brown insists can be of any nationality – has already begun and will involve Jones, with Exeter’s Rob Baxter the early favourite as an end is sought to the haphazard process that has conceived previous regimes.

“We absolutely needed a succession plan. We have not had that before – this is a first for the RFU,” Brown said.

“In the past we have tended to have this disruptive reset of our coaching teams at the end of every four-year cycle.

“We wanted to avoid that and also have a smooth transition into the next head coach.”

The detail of Jones’s contract includes a break clause based on performance at the World Cup, enabling ties to be severed should a similar scenario to three years ago unfold when England endured a harrowing group exit.

Stuart Lancaster and his assistants Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree were awarded new deals in the build-up to England 2015 only to be jettisoned for the failure to progress from the group phase, resulting in the payment of costly severance packages.

Brown insists the ability to part company swiftly was a non-negotiable, but refuses to define what would constitute a failed World Cup.

“Another part we learned from the past was the performance break clause we would need to have in the agreement. We have been clear about that,” Brown said.

“Eddie and I have had discussions about what the break clause is and we are really clear about what that break clause means if we don’t succeed in 2019.

“The specifics I do not want to go into because it’s not really appropriate to do that.”

If as planned he works above his successor for a year, Jones insists he “will have the ultimate say, it can’t be more black or white than that”, and has ruled out extending his stewardship any further.

Upon replacing Lancaster, the 57-year-old stated that he plans to be sitting on a beach in Barbados after the 2019 World Cup, but the prospect of establishing a dynasty forced a change of heart.

“I was never arrogant or presumptuous enough to think I would be offered anything beyond 2019,” Jones said.

“Steve and I had a chat after Christmas, he offered me the opportunity and it was an easy decision in the end.

“I have been in other teams that have been successful but come the transition to other coaches, it has not been successful.

“You then see the team fall away. I want to hand over a successful team.”