Eddie Jones paid tribute to outgoing Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown on Saturday night, insisting that his shock departure following Friday’s resignation will be a huge loss to the governing body.
Brown’s decision left everyone at the RFU stunned on the eve of England’s 35-15 comeback victory over Japan, with his announcement coming just 14 months after he replaced Ian Ritchie in September 2017. It’s understood that Brown elected to take the decision to leave before being pushed further down the line, although the RFU have vehemently denied that he was sacked.
Brown’s departure – which will happen at the end of the year and see the current director of professional rugby Nigel Melville take interim charge until a replacement is found – is a blow for Jones, given that the two share a healthy relationship and Brown was the man who awarded Jones a contract extension earlier this year that runs through to the end of the 2020/21 season.
“He is a good guy, a really good guy and he has made his decision to leave the RFU,” Jones said on Saturday. “I am not privy to why and he will be sorely missed. I will certainly miss him. I am sure the rest of the organisation will miss him. But life moves on and the RFU will keep pounding forward.”
Asked whether Brown’s exit will affect him, Jones added: “I am not sure. The only thing I can do is coach the team. That is the only thing I can do.”
“He is good guy, good skills and has a nice manner as a CEO. He was very supportive of the team and he will certainly be missed.
“I had a cup of tea with him. I was very surprised when I learned about it because I think he was enjoying the job. But you have got to remember those CEO jobs, particularly CEO of English rugby is a difficult job. You have got so many conflicting interests and you are always trying to manage the parties. It is about like being the head coach.”
Brown’s sudden exit will come just nine months before the Rugby World Cup begins – a tournament that both he and Jones have declared publicly they want to win. It could well have ramifications on Jones’ plans for the tournament in Japan given that he does not know who his replacement will be yet and how the relationship between him and the RFU develops, but he was adamant that part of his role as head coach is to ensure that any changes at the top do not impact down the ladder to the team.
“My job is to make sure that it doesn’t impact,” he added. “That is the only thing that I can do.”
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