Eddie Jones held 14-month long secret talks with Australia while with England


A further meeting between McLennan and Jones is understood to have taken place during the last year’s autumn series at a time when his job was again under severe threat following a disastrous run of results.

The talks resumed and intensified just days after Jones was sacked by the Rugby Football Union on December 19 and replaced by Steve Borthwick.

Rugby Australia were privately said to be astonished that the RFU had not insisted on a non-compete clause in Jones’ severance package which enabled them to fast-tracked their plans, culminating in a deal being struck between Jones and McLennan at the end of last week, despite lucrative offers also on the table for Jones in Japan and France.

Jones’ contract will officially begin on January 29 – his first appointment will be to attend the finals of the Sydney Sevens on that day – and will include the next two World Cups and the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2025.

‘No way I wanted Eddie to go to my big competitors’

England supporters will no doubt be alarmed that Jones, who has spent the last seven years in charge at Twickenham, and the last three planning for the World Cup in France, will now be able to share his intellectual property with one of Borthwick’s side’s closest rivals . Fans may also question why the head coach, with two years left on his contract, was holding talks with potential new employers while his side was struggling to reach the heights of the 2019 World Cup.

“We are great friends with the guys from the RFU,” McLennan told Telegraph Sports. “When we heard that Eddie had been cut we said: ‘Wow!’ “Then when we heard there was a non-compete [clause]we said: ‘Really!’

“There is no way I wanted someone like Eddie to go to one of my big competitors. His overall knowledge of the game and our opposing sides is second to none. We didn’t want rampaging Eddie on the loose.”

The RFU on Monday defended the decision not to impose any restrictions on Jones, a practice that is often commonplace in blue chip companies when a senior employee is paid off.

“When the RFU ended Eddie’s role as England head coach, having considered both the legal and moral perspectives, it was decided it would be unreasonable to restrict Eddie in seeking alternative employment,” said an RFU spokesperson.

Jones declined to comment.

McLennan’s track record in business – he is currently chair of a global digital advertising real estate company – shows that he is prepared to move heaven and earth in the pursuit of talent, leading to the shock dismissal of Rennie just a week after he insisted he would be making no changes to his coaching line-up.

There was a surprise within Rugby Australia at his refusal to work with Jones and McLennan received the unanimous support of his board to pursue the appointment of the Australian.

‘Eddie and I believe we can give the World Cup a red-hot go’

It is understood that Rugby Australia’s sales pitch to Jones included the promise of structural changes that will see the Super Rugby structure become more aligned with the centrally-contracted provincial system in Ireland which has enabled Andy Farrell’s side to move to No 1 in the world rankings .

The promise of having total control over his players – something that he yearned for during his seven years with England – and the opportunity to coach for two more World Cups, as well as the Lions tour and a Women’s World Cup were said to have been the decisive factors.

Rugby Australia are also on the verge of concluding a private equity deal which will give Jones the funds to develop a new domestic structure.

“The announcement has already sent a lightning bolt through the entire Australia eco-system,” added McLennan. “Eddie and I genuinely believe we can give the Rugby World Cup a red-hot go later this year.”


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