The former utility back believes England are currently residing in no man’s land, having previously been on the cusp of sharing the same rarefied air as world champions New Zealand following a revolution upon Jones’ arrival two years ago.
Many would argue England stood toe-to-toe with the mighty All Blacks, having won 17 straight games after Jones took charge.
Their 60-3 hammering of Uruguay in their final group game as they exited the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil in embarrassment at the first hurdle started a record-equaling 18-match winning streak – shared with the mighty men from the land of the long white cloud for Tier 1 nations.
Jones led a new-look England to two Six Nations titles – one a Grand Slam – as well as a 3-0 conquest of Australia, a 2-0 whitewash of Argentina and victory over South Africa.
Since a 13-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin in the 2017 Six Nations, however – a result that ended hopes of a Grand Slam repeat – the wheels have come off the chariot.
Of the last 13 games, England have won only eight, including a run of five defeats in a row, with those five coming in their last six games. Only a 25-10 triumph in a 2-1 series loss to South Africa this summer stopped the rot. And now their 2019 World Cup dreams lie in tatters.
“They’ve gone from potentially the best side in the world alongside New Zealand to being, well, who knows,” said Healey bluntly, speaking at the annual Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch to launch the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday.
“Who knows where they are. And I think that’s probably the story of Eddie Jones. He’s gone through his two-year cycle. Everyone thought he’d be brilliant for two years and then he’d hit the buffers and that’s what’s happened.
“Loads of staff have left, he’s fired a few people, loads of people at the RFU have been removed from their positions, there seems to be a lot of instability, which seems to be the way with it at the moment. Instability is the new norm.”
England went from missing out on successive Six Nations Grand Slams in 2017 to fifth this year – with only Italy below them. It was their worst finish in the competition since 1987.
“I don’t think they’ve got a better chance of finishing higher in the Six Nations this year,” Leicester Tigers legend Healey added, only half tongue in cheek.
“I think they have only two games at home this year, right, the blues at home, France, Scotland and Italy, and everyone else away.
“It’s the tougher round of fixtures this usually. If we can get a win in Wales and then fingers crossed. But they start off in Ireland which isn’t the best start. It’s a tough one.”
Jones has previously been described as the Jose Mourinho of the rugby world – a Jekyll and Hyde character.
Undoubtedly a brilliant and successful coach who can galvanise players and transform teams. But, ultimately, it doesn’t last as his divisive character and ego eventually sees him wear his welcome out.
And Healey feels Jones may well be entering Mourinho ‘third season syndrome’ territory – the Portuguese has never held a coaching job for more than three seasons, and believes the former Japan coach doesn’t have a life away from rugby.
“I said when he took over he’s brilliant at breaking the status quo,” added Healey, capped 51 times by England and scorer of 15 tries, as well as the owner of two British & Irish Lions caps.
“But for him to be a long term success he has to break his own status quo of constantly playing mind games with people, because you need some continuity, continuity of coaching staff. You need relaxed players. So you can make progress naturally.
“The guys (coaching staff) were getting emails at 05:30 in the morning and expected to answer them by 6am. I’d answer it by 6pm the following day if I was working for him but you’ve got to have a life. I don’t think you breed any new ideas if you’re so engrossed in the sport.”
Ali Williams seemingly offers hope, briefly, before snatching it away.
“Yeah, I believe they can lose,” says the 77-times capped Kiwi.
He’s answering a question about whether the best team in the world can be stopped at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“Will they? No. That’s just my humble view, but I don’t think they will be beaten.”
The Springboks’ thrilling 36-34 win in Wellington last Saturday caused consternation in the rugby world – the seemingly infallible juggernauts of international rugby aren’t so invincible.
It was the men from the land of the long white cloud’s first defeat in 10 games and just their fourth loss in 34 games since lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in London nearly three years ago. It was the Boks’ first win in New Zealand since 2009 as they halted a run of 11 straight defeats to the men in black.
“I think you’ve already answered that, if you look at the game from the weekend,” Williams, 37, said when asked about the possibility of New Zealand being stopped from winning a third World Cup title in a row in 2019.
“A game of rugby is very much on the day and what you’ve done mentally, physically where you’re at, South Africa proved that on the weekend.
“If you play right, get inside people’s heads and if you change the norm, then you can win. Which is the beauty of rugby and we don’t want to take that away.”
The former Blues and Crusaders man, however, believes that the South Africa defeat might well have served to only poke the beast.
“Yeah, it’s made you look in the mirror and that the mirror’s probably telling you the wrong answer and we’re not as good as we think we are,” said Williams, speaking at the annual Emirates Airline Rugby Long Lunch to launch the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday.
“Which is I think exactly what they want, a true reflection of where they are. I don’t believe they’ll change a lot but they’ll look at themselves individually and collectively and ask ‘how are we going to get better, how are we going to challenge ourselves more, because we can’t let those things happen’.”
Williams and former England and British & Irish Lions back Austin Healey entertained nearly 1,000 people at the event in Festival City, which is part of the excitement and build-up for the Dubai Sevens, taking place from November 29-December 1 this year.
“Loss inspires you,” added Williams, who represented the All Blacks at the 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups – earning a winners’ medal on home soil seven years ago.
“It’s not just fish and chip paper the next day, it’s until you prove yourself again in New Zealand. That’s a good thing and a great pressure to have. And it brings the best out of people. It challenges the team and the environment, everyone, so I think it’s good.”
Despite being England’s starting playmaker in their most recent game against South Africa and producing an excellent opening to the season at Gloucester, Jones has omitted Cipriani from the 36-man group who will take part in a three-day training camp in Bristol starting on Sunday.
The 30-year-old was convicted of common assault and resisting arrest and fined a total of £4,000 following an incident outside a nightclub that took place during Gloucester’s pre-season tour to Jersey.
But Jones insists it is form and not that indiscretion that has shaped his thinking, with Owen Farrell and George Ford the two fly-halves called up.
“That’s the case, 100 per cent. We’ve decided just to have two stand-offs in the squad for this particular camp because we want them to get a lot of training time,” Jones said.
“At the moment we’ve got Owen and George, who I believe are the first two fly-halves, and then comes Danny.
“Danny’s probably third or fourth choice and he knows what he’s got to work on, which is between Danny and I.
“He’s disappointed but he understands. He’s desperate to play for England, which is terrific.”
Manu Tuilagi makes his first appearance in an England squad in over a year after overcoming a dreadful succession of injuries.
Serious groin and knee problems have prevented the nation’s most destructive threequarter from making an international start since 2014, his last appearance coming as a replacement against Wales two years ago.
The 27-year-old has started all three of Leicester’s games this season and capped a fine performance against Newcastle with a try.
“It’s the first time in the three years I’ve been in England that Manu’s been fit,” Jones said.
“He’s put together a series of games and we’re looking forward to him continuing on that run. He’s got the opportunity to come in and show us what he’s got.”
Included despite being midway through a seven-week ban for a tip tackle made during Sale’s pre-season victory at Castres is wing Chris Ashton.
Ashton has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Sharks following his summer recruitment from Toulon, but Jones will take a look at the rugby league convert before naming his squad for the autumn series on October 18.
“It’s a judgement. Selection is a judgement, and my judgement is that Ashton’s going to be important for us in November,” Jones said.
“We’ve kept close checks on what he’s doing training-wise, Sale have been very good in working with us on him and we believe that he could be potentially available for selection.”
Bath giant Joe Cokanasiga offers another wing option and scrum-half Danny Care is back, but there is no place for veteran forwards Dan Cole and James Haskell, while emerging back rows Sam Underhill and Sam Simmonds are overlooked.