Eddie Jones has been given the green light by the Rugby Football Union to continue working as a consultant for Suntory Sungoliath with Twickenham officials insisting there is still no conflict of interest after England were drawn in the same 2023 World Cup pool as Japan.
Jones has worked for the Top League side based on the outskirts of Tokyo throughout his England tenure and was last November made the club’s consulting director of rugby.
The RFU has previously said it is comfortable with Jones, who is currently in Tokyo, spending his time off at Suntory, though Monday’s draw raises the prospect of him working with players England will come up against at France 2023, given five of Japan’s 2019 World Cup squad were provided by the club.
After the draw was made Jones said he had a “gut feeling” England would be pitted against Japan and he “wasn’t disappointed” given his history with the country, famously coaching the Brave Blossoms to a 2015 World Cup upset over South Africa.
It remains to be seen whether the Japan union will be happy for his Suntory arrangement to continue, but an RFU spokesperson said: “Eddie has had a consultancy agreement with Suntory for over 20 years. We have been aware and comfortable with that since he joined the RFU. He provides consultancy in his holidays and this role is in no way a conflict with his England team priorities.”
Before taking over at Japan, Jones was the coach of Suntory in 1997 as well as between 2009 and 2012. He also has a hand in recruitment for Suntory and was credited with playing a significant role in signing the All Black Beauden Barrett, who has just arrived at the club.
After the World Cup draw was made, Jones extolled the virtues of the structure of Japanese rugby, explaining how the domestic league is set up to aid the national team. “I know they have set up their league to completely support the Japan national team,” he said. “The domestic league will go from January to May and then the national team has all the players from June to December – now what other team in the world has that?”
Jones’s relationship with Suntory has reportedly caused friction after some of the club’s coaches spent time in the Wales camp during the season before the last World Cup. Warren Gatland was said to be unimpressed that he had not been informed of Jones’s consultancy work with the club, only finding out when it came to light last summer.