Eddie Jones will continue as England’s head coach until the next World Cup after deciding he still had unfinished business in the job.
The Australian took over in 2015 and, having overseen a runners-up finish in last year’s tournament in Japan, has agreed a two-year extension to take him through to 2023.
By that time, the 60-year-old will have overtaken Sir Clive Woodward as the country’s longest-serving coach.
The basic terms of the deal have been settled for some time but Jones’ desire to assess England’s performances in the paused Six Nations campaign, followed by coronavirus emergency, delayed the announcement.
Jones insists he has the hunger to oversee another tilt at the sport’s top prize and has not given up on his long-stated ambition: to finish the task of moulding a team for the ages.
“Having done the four years, I felt the project hasn’t been finished yet,” he said.
“At the end of the World Cup, you need to make an assessment of whether you can continue to develop the team and whether, as a coach, you can be effective. Therefore, the Six Nations for me was quite important. I wanted to make sure I could still have an effect on the team, still improve the team and I think I can do that so I think it’s a good fit for me to continue.
“We want to aspire to be a team that everyone remembers. I think we’ve played some good rugby over the last four years and we can play even better rugby in the next three years. That’s the challenge ahead.
“I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes.
“Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years but the circumstances are right.”
Re-engaging Jones represents a considerable act of forward planning by the Rugby Football Union at a time of great uncertainty for the sport, but with no doubts on either side the announcement has been pitched as a much-needed injection of positivity for fans.
Bill Sweeney, CEO of the RFU, said: “My thoughts and those of all of us at the RFU are with everyone impacted by COVID-19, both across the country at large but also within our own rugby union community.
“In exceptionally difficult times, we are pleased to be sharing some good news.
“We have announced Eddie’s contract extension a few weeks later than planned as our focus was diverted to support the English rugby community during this difficult time, we are now turning our attention to developing plans to support the rebooting of rugby and a winning England team will provide a vital role in that.
“We are delighted that Eddie will continue as head coach to run England’s campaign to take us to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby.”
Jones, who joined the RFU’s executive group in taking a 25 per cent pay cut last week, is eagerly awaiting the moment when he and his side can help lift the gloom.
“Our problems are quite insignificant compared to the problems around the world so we have to keep everything in perspective,” he said.
“When we get the opportunity to play, we want to play with passion, we want to play with pride and we want to give people something to enjoy. We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together.”
It seems increasingly unlikely that England will get the chance to tour Japan in July, with the Tokyo Olympics already postponed, and Sweeney revealed a decision is looming on that trip.
“We are in regular dialogue with World Rugby and a lot of the other unions as well around the world. This is a conversation we are having around the July tours,” he said.
“We expect to be able to make a decision on that towards the end of April.”