Eddie Jones has become embroiled in a conflict-of-interest controversy as it emerged the England head coach has been advising a superstar All Black in his consultancy role with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath.
New Zealand’s World Cup-winning playmaker Beauden Barrett has revealed details of how Jones has been helping to improve his game in Tokyo — during a current visit and also back in January.
While the RFU have always been aware of Jones’ long-standing involvement with Suntory, his direct help for a marquee player who represents one of England’s main global rivals is bound to cause alarm.
Eddie Jones has been spending time working on his consultancy role at Suntory Sungoliath
The timing will add to a sense of unease within the corridors of power at Twickenham following last week’s publication of a damning report into England’s dire Six Nations campaign, which saw them finish fifth after emphatic defeats by Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Jones faced pressure and criticism after his side’s ill-fated title defence and while the union backed him to continue as head coach, his external employment arrangements are bound to be scrutinised again now.
Barrett spoke warmly about Jones’ qualities as a coach, but by doing so the former World Rugby Player of the Year inadvertently unleashed a storm.
‘Eddie’s been so good for me, in my dealings with him,’ said the 29-year-old. ‘His advice is going to make me a better player.
‘When he has something to tell me, they’re like little pieces of gold. His understanding of the game is exceptional. He’s been involved a fair bit, certainly at the start of the season. He was over in January for a couple of weeks and he’s also over now.’
New Zealand star Beauden Barrett has revealed he has worked with the England coach directly
The timing of the first visit meant Jones was working in the Far East the month before England took part in the championship.
While a consultancy role suggests Jones is limited to offering distant guidance and support to the Suntory management team, Barrett added: ‘He’s more in the background but when he does offer advice to the players it’s certainly good advice. He gives good information.
‘He’s also running some training and drills. When he is here, he’s always around, giving players feedback. He’s very valuable.’
Despite Jones’ involvement benefitting these rival players, a statement from Twickenham read: ‘Eddie has had a consultancy agreement with Suntory for over 20 years. This role is in no way a conflict with his England team priorities.’
The British and Irish Lions have reached an agreement with Premiership clubs over player release for a 10-day training camp in Jersey and the warm-up fixture against Japan.
However, Wasps and England lock Joe Launchbury will miss out on the tour after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.