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Eddie Jones tasks England to make up for ‘laughing stock’ Barbarians in effort to drag rugby’s name out of the mud

Jack de Menezes
·3-min read
Eddie Jones believes the actions of the Barbarians has left rugby ‘a laughing stock’ in the eyes of the public (Getty)
Eddie Jones believes the actions of the Barbarians has left rugby ‘a laughing stock’ in the eyes of the public (Getty)

Eddie Jones has tasked his England squad with restoring rugby union’s reputation after last weekend’s Barbarians saga left the sport a “laughing stock” across the nation.

Thirteen members of the Barbarians team, including former England captain Chris Robshaw and a number of Saracens players, were charged by the Rugby Football Union on Thursday for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game by breaching coronavirus protocols and giving false statements as part of the subsequent investigation.

The players involved left the team hotel without permission for a drinking session two nights in a row, which resulted in England’s only warm-up match for their Six Nations finale against Italy this Saturday being cancelled, forcing Jones into a hastily arranged training match in place of the Twickenham exhibition.

Unsurprisingly, the England head coach was far from impressed with the transgressions of the opposition, but he hopes that victory this weekend over Italy — which could secure them the 2020 title depending on the result in the final match of the tournament between France and Ireland — will help the country forget about rugby’s moment of shame.

“It’s been a difficult time for society,” Jones said. “People have lost their jobs, people have lost family members, so we feel absolutely privileged to have the opportunity to play top lever rugby and our responsibility is to put a smile on people's faces, and we would like to make people happy for a period of time that maybe takes away some of the pain of society at the moment.

“The players have approached this camp with a zest for the game that I have never seen before, there is a real desire to do that. We also understand that rugby at the moment is a bit of a laughing stock and we all love the game.

“We are lucky enough to play the game at the highest level and we want to make sure we put the game back where it needs to be.

“We have a great game in rugby and we don't like to see it be portrayed as something that is not a serious sport, as it has been. So we understand both of those responsibilities and it is a weight we carry and it is a weight that we enjoy to carry.”

It is far from the first scandal to hit rugby union over the years, but it comes at a time when public outcry for such actions is in a fragile state, given the concern across the country with how the coronavirus pandemic has gone through a second spike.

Chris Robshaw was among a number of Barbarians players who broke coronavirus protocolsTwitter/@EdwardB24376757
Chris Robshaw was among a number of Barbarians players who broke coronavirus protocolsTwitter/@EdwardB24376757

As a result, Jones feels rugby’s name has been dragged through the mud in a similar way to the Australian cricket sandpaper scandal, which saw former captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft banished from the international team for deliberate ball-tampering in 2018.

All three have since been restored to the Australian team, with Jones admitting that time can be a powerful healer.

“No one likes to see a game called off because of a breakdown in the protocols in society at the moment,” he added. “That’s what happened. It is not good for rugby but we have got an opportunity to turn that around.

“History shows that sport changes quickly. If you look at the situation with the Australian cricket team and the sandpaper, that time was not a great time for cricket and it was not a great time for Australian cricket. Now people have forgotten that and it is our responsibility to put on a performance so that people don’t remember what happened from a couple of weeks ago.” 

The RFU have not disclosed the identity of those players involved in the Barbarians protocol breach, although a video emerged on social media last Saturday that showed Robshaw, Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray, Joel Kpoku, Fergus McFadden and Manu Vunipola appearing to be playing a drinking game. 

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