Eddie Jones has insisted that he is not available to take charge of the British and Irish Lions for their five-week tour to New Zealand in 2017. The 56-year-old has worked wonders since replacing Stuart Lancaster last November in the aftermath of a woeful World Cup campaign for England, quickly reversing the side's fortunes and leading them to their first Six Nations Grand Slam title in 13 years.
Jones' stock has risen further still over the past 10 days, with last weekend's impressive victory over his native Australia only the fourth time England have ever beaten the Wallabies Down Under. They clinched their maiden series win in the country with a Test to spare on Saturday (18 June), when a sublime defensive effort coupled with tries from captain Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell sealed a 23-7 triumph at AAMI Park in Melbourne. They complete their successful campaign in Sydney in five days time (25 June).
That latest success has increased calls for Jones to lead the Lions against the formidable world champion All Blacks next summer, although the straight-taking former Japan chief has comprehensively ruled out the possibility of taking any position that would distract him from his current role at Twickenham.
"I'm completely unavailable – completely unavailable," he said. "I signed a four-year contract to make England the best team in the world and I'm going to spend every minute I have doing that. If I took the Lions job, I would have to spend anything from six to 12 months not doing that."
Such sentiments were echoed by Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Ian Ritchie, who conceded that there was no appetite within the governing body for Jones to lead the Lions.
"I think it is categoric," he was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph. "It was discussed between Eddie and myself. Equally, we did not want him to do it and he did not want to do it because his focus is on 2019. And I explained that all quite categorically at the Lions board meeting as well that Eddie was not up for it. And whatever has happened here that is still the situation. Eddie does not want to do it and we want him to stay and coach England."
Wales' Warren Gatland oversaw the Lions' memorable 2-1 series win over Australia back in 2013 and faces competition from fellow Kiwi and current Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt to be entrusted with the prestigious job once again. Wales are currently enduring a difficult time in New Zealand, where two comfortable Test defeats to the All Blacks came either side of a dreadful walloping at the hands of Hamilton-based Super Rugby side the Chiefs.
The Irish, meanwhile, will face South Africa in a series decider in Port Elizabeth next weekend after their gutsy first away victory over the Springboks – completed by just 14 men after CJ Stander's red card - was followed by a 32-26 loss at Ellis Park.