England head coach Eddie Jones has pinpointed the reliance on privately educated players as a source of weakness in the country's rugby culture and called for the system to be "blown up."
Jones, England coach since late 2015, told 'The i' newspaper that privately educated players struggle to embrace the mantle of leadership and are often psychologically ill-equipped to turn the tide when games are going against them.
Jones' England side, containing seven privately educated players in the starting XV for the third test, defeated Australia 2-1 in this summer's test series down under, a timely success after a couple of underwhelming years.
"They are good, tough players. They work hard but they only know what they know," Jones said. "If you have only been in a system where you get to 15, you have a bit of rugby ability and then go to Harrow. Then for two years you do nothing but play rugby, everything's done for you. That's the reality. You have this closeted life.
"When things go to crap on the field who’s going to lead because these blokes have never had experience of it? I see that as a big thing. When we are on the front foot we are the best in the world. When we are not on the front foot our ability to find a way to win, our resolve, is not as it should be.
"There is this desire to be polite and so winning is seen as a bit uncouth. 'We have to play the game properly, old chap.’
"It’s the way the players are educated. I’ve been here seven years now and I’ve never seen kids in a park playing touch football (rugby). Never. Zero. In the southern hemisphere they are all doing that, developing their skills. Here you see them playing football, but never touch football.
"That’s the problem. It’s all formal coaching, in a formal setting, in public schools. You are going to have to blow the whole thing up at some stage, change it because you are not getting enough skilful players through."
In the interview, Jones argued that England's 2003 World Cup victory - when he was coach of the Australian side beaten in the final - was atypical and achieved in spite of the system.
"That was just situational success, wasn’t it? There has been nothing to follow that. I felt that culture was working against us when I arrived, 100 per cent. It’s never one thing, it’s the whole structure. Players are taught to be compliant. The best teams are run by the players and the coach facilitates that. That’s the key. Look at United. At some stage they had Scholes, Keane, Neville, all those guys. The players ran the team and Ferguson had iron clad discipline that kept them all in line."
Jones succeeded Stuart Lancaster as England coach in the aftermath of the 2015 World Cup, guiding them to a Grand Slam in his first season, two further Six Nations titles in 2017 and 2020 and a Rugby World Cup final appearance in 2019. However, England have struggled for consistency in the current World Cup cycle, winning just four of their 10 Six Nations games in 2021 and 2022.