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Jones extends contract with England rugby until RWC 2023

Eddie Jones has agreed to a contract extension as coach of the England rugby team, keeping the Australian in the role until the World Cup in 2023.

If he sees out his deal, Jones will become longest-serving coach of the national team - surpassing Clive Woodward’s spell in charge from 1997-2004.

Jones took the job in late 2015 after the World Cup and has won 42 of his 54 matches in charge for a victory ratio of 78%, the best of any England coach. He led the team to the 2019 World Cup in Japan, where England lost the final to South Africa.

His contract was due to expire in August 2021, but Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney said the organization reached “an understanding” with Jones after he returned from Japan.

The new deal comes while the RFU - and rugby in general - reels from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Jones agreed last week to a temporary pay reduction in excess of 25%, like other RFU executives, with the sport's national governing body set to take a financial hit of 50 million pounds ($61 million) this year.

“The extension is a great honor for me,” the 60-year-old Jones said, “but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing.

“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.”

Jones said he never thought he would sign for a second four-year stint with England.

“But the circumstances are right,” he added. “Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that.

“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. It’s a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it.”

Under Jones, England also has won two Six Nations titles - including the Grand Slam in 2016 - and had an 18-match winning run, matching New Zealand’s record for a tier-one side.

“His record since joining speaks for itself and he has proven why he is one of the best coaches in world rugby,” Sweeney said of Jones, who has previously coached the national teams in Australia and Japan.

“The progress shown by England since 2015 has been indisputable and having fielded the youngest-ever team to play in a World Cup final, we know even more growth is possible.”

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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