England rugby head coach Eddie Jones has appeared to backtrack on his comments about Emma Raducanu.
The England chief recently came under fire for pinning the 18-year-old’s losses down to “distractions”, as he offered rising rugby star Marcus Smith advice. He has now clarified his remarks and revealed he sent the US Open champion a letter to reach out to her.
On Sunday, Jones blamed Raducanu’s post-US Open defeats on “distractions” and photoshoots.
The rugby coach spoke after 22-year-old Smith played a role in England’s dominant performance against Tonga on Saturday, not wanting the young player to be sidetracked by hype.
“The big thing for good young players is distractions, the distractions could be the exposure they get in the media, the praise they get, the criticism they get,” the 61-year-old commented.
“There can be groups of agents who see this guy as the next big thing.”
He then touched on Raducanu as an example, saying: “There’s a reason why the young girl who won the US Open hasn’t done so well afterwards.
“What have you seen her on – the front page of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar or whatever it is, wearing Christian Dior clothes. All that is a distraction around her.”
At the time Jones made his remarks, the Bromley teenager had played just two tournaments since her historic US Open triumph, winning two matches and losing two, and had actually improved her world ranking by several places in the weeks since, cracking the top 20.
He was also slammed as many pointed out that a British Vogue interview and photoshoot she took part in was not a cover story, and was actually shot before she flew to the States for the North American hard-court season – weeks before she won the US Open.
Now, Jones has clarified his comments and said he never meant to criticise the tennis star.
He told BBC Sport: "The whole point was how difficult it is for young players to cope with distractions.
"So the point I made was not wrong. I can't control if it's taken out of context. There was no criticism of Emma.”
The rugby boss also revealed he had reached out to Raducanu to clarify his comments.
"I have sent her a letter just to reinforce that and hopefully we'll see her at Twickenham shortly,” he added.
"I don't have any misgivings about what I said – I am disappointed it was taken out of context, and I would be disappointed if Emma was upset by it.
"It was deemed as being sexist and that was never the aim of the point."
Raducanu herself was recently given the opportunity to respond to Jones’ remarks following her loss to qualifier Wang Xinyu at her season-ending tournament in Linz.
When first asked for her reaction to the England head coach’s comments, the teenager admitted she didn’t “really know what this is about”.
The world No 20 then shut down claims she was distracted by external commitments, saying: “I think that many people are going to have opinions of me and what I’m doing.”
“I just know I’m staying focused with a small circle around me. I have my parents, who would 100 per cent let me know if I was getting swayed. I am very zoned in.”
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