IAN HERBERT: No shock that lump-hammer Eddie Jones is back in crash and burn mode with Australia
- Australia are on the verge of World Cup elimination after their defeat by Wales
- Head coach Eddie Jones used to carry such an aura but everything’s turned sour
- Since being sacked by England in 2022, his career has gone from bad to worse
Eddie Jones would no doubt contend that such things are nonsense — just like the nickname of the Japanese national team, which he hated, mate, because ‘Brave Blossoms’ does not conform to his notion of rugby, even though it is fundamental to the nation whose side he coached and who helped him build a reputation.
But when his devastated young Australian players formed a huddle after the World Cup annihilation by Wales on Sunday night, he was not there.
That huddle was a shambles, actually; players arriving to it late. Some not at all. A pale imitation, like everything else that night, of Wales, who formed a far larger circle out on the pitch with Warren Gatland in their number.
When the two coaches later sat down before the media, you looked for some evidence, amid this terrible adversity, of why Jones likes to position himself in the realm of the world’s great coaches, by referencing his chats with Pep Guardiola and Sir Alex Ferguson.
There was nothing. Just that familiar quicksilver tongue of his, which dazzled English rugby for a while. Along with the thin skin, the self-justification and a nasty little threat to leave the room if there was another question about detailed newspaper reports of him potentially deserting Australia’s ship, like a rat, to take the Japan job. ‘If you want to continue down that line, I’ll excuse myself. Have you decided what you want to do?’ chirped this classless individual.
Everything’s turned sour for Australia head coach Eddie Jones, who once carried such an aura
Australia are on the verge of a shock World Cup exit after losing 40-6 to Wales last weekend
The devastated Wallabies formed a huddle (above) after their humiliating World Cup annihilation at the hands of Wales on Sunday, but head coach Jones was nowhere to be seen
He implied that Australia’s shameful defeat by Wales was a product of the hand he had been dealt when he took on his role in January. He has a young squad. They will eventually learn. As if he had no choice but to leave behind openside flanker Michael Cooper and fly-half Quade Cooper — an example of the shock-and-awe approach he brings to every new role — and expose untested players on rugby’s greatest stage.
This is the coach who carried such an aura into England eight years ago. Gareth Southgate seemed smitten by his work, though the feeling did not seem terribly mutual.
After the leaden solidity of Stuart Lancaster, Jones’s predecessor, who walked around with a Collins A4 diary under his arm, he seemed a ray of sunshine. I recall his first England press conference, Jones dazzling with wisecracks about Australian convicts, Einstein’s definition of insanity and Prince Harry’s house.
The chaos he brings can be a drug. After he arrived, those who covered England’s summer tour to Australia, which can be a sedentary business, found him threatening his compatriots with a rugby form of Bodyline. There was incredible electricity.
But it is never sustainable with him. Success never lasts for those, like Jones, who only bring sound and fury. After the England honeymoon, it became clear that the team’s rugby just wasn’t that good. He got the show back on the road for the 2019 World Cup but he wasn’t — never has been — a coach players will run through walls for, as their protector and guiding light.
Jones’ quicksilver tongue during press conferences dazzled English rugby for a while as well
King Eddie’s court has resembled the White House of ex-USA president Donald Trump at times
The 63-year-old head coach, who was sacked by England in December 2022, endured a woeful run ahead of the tournament – and Australia haven’t looked any better on the World Cup stage
The Australian players who trooped through the mixed zone at Stade Lyonnais around midnight on Sunday were all on-message about the learnings they would take. But there was no notion of Jones’s part in that. I did not hear any reference him.
Little wonder. If they had watched their coach’s press conference 10 minutes earlier, they would have heard him detailing their inability to deal with setbacks. On the really bad nights for Manchester United, Ferguson would circle the wagons, defend his boys to the hilt and not give the press one ounce of satisfaction. As Jones held court, his captain, David Porecki, stared ahead implacably, not affording him the remotest glance.
The ‘mind games’ model of coaching Jones employs so implacably — digging out players through the media, in training sessions or review meetings — has had its doubters in many of the places he has worked. The words that keep coming back about him and his management style are ‘brutal’ and ‘nasty’.
Mail Sport columnist Ian Herbert
Players desperate to represent their nation just have to live with it. But the revolving door of Jones’s assistant coaches and support staff tells its own story. The court of King Eddie has resembled the Donald Trump White House at times.
Things tend to unravel quickly for the coach who commands no residual affection and that has generally been the pattern with Jones. He was released by Australia in 2005 after losing eight of his final nine games. He left Queensland Reds after 92-3 and 96-0 defeats and a Super 14 wooden spoon. He barely lasted a year at Saracens. Jones tends to crash and burn and has had jobs at 11 different teams since 1994.
And now we see him in a role which requires something more than his usual lump hammer. The job of coaxing and nurturing Australian talent for the World Cup the nation is to host four years from now — in the teeth of rugby union’s struggle to compete with other codes of football in that sports-mad nation.
Though Jones would not see it this way, the cool intelligence of Ireland coach Andy Farrell, whom he rapidly decided on arrival at Twickenham to let go from England’s set-up, showed him up last weekend. Farrell revealed what progressive, modern coaching looks like.
The most striking part of his press conference with Johnny Sexton, after a famous win over South Africa on Saturday, was the way this coach clearly viewed his player as an equal.
Gatland was impressive and wise, too, 24 hours later, as he offered an assessment of how Australian and Welsh rugby union faced similar existential struggles which must somehow be tackled.
The memory strayed to Jones being asked, in his inaugural press conference as England coach, about the importance of developing the nation’s academies and next generation — something which had always absorbed Lancaster. ‘I’m not discussing that,’ Jones replied. ‘I’m a national team coach. I don’t discuss academies.’
Steve Borthwick struggled to carve out results at the start of his tenure as England boss, but his side have performed well in France so far and restored a feel-good factor to English rugby
Progressive head coach Andy Farrell, meanwhile, oozes a cool intelligence in charge of Ireland
Neighbourly gesture lifts Aussie fans
Taking the bus back from Lyon’s stadium in the early hours of Monday, after Wales had hammered Australia, was what I imagine a place in the bass section of the Rhos male voice choir must be like.
Calon Lan, Cwm Rhondda and the old Max Boyce song Duw It’s Hard were all aired. And with spirits so high after a dreamy, warm day of ale and rugby on the banks of the Rhone, the Welsh contingent then launched into a rendition of the Neighbours theme tune.
The many Aussies on the bus laughed and cheered, taking this in the spirit of kinship with which it was intended. It was far removed from international football’s lunatic fringe.
The fact Jenas’ tweet is still there says it all
The abuse Jermaine Jenas directed at referee Robert Jones on social media during the north London derby was, of course, desperately poor, coming from an individual who carries influence because of the platform the BBC has given him. And because he will not have led the sport’s ‘Love Football, Protect the Game’ campaign out of the goodness of his heart.
In the modern way, Jenas took to Twitter to apologise and inform us all that ‘our words online’ can have an impact.
The abuse Jermaine Jenas (pictured) directed at referee Robert Jones on social media during the north London derby was desperately poor – but the fact his tweet is still there says it all
And yet, as I write this 24 hours after that apology, Jenas has not even bothered to delete his tweet. Please draw your own conclusions.
Football still spreads joy
The picture of my friends’ son, Thomas, reached my phone at the end of another weekend of anger at the top of football.
It captured their seven-year-old proudly sporting Stockport Vikings kit, ahead of his first ‘real’ football match, with a look of such unmistakable excitement and pleasure on his face.
My friends’ pleasure and pride were something many parents will have shared in the past week or so. A simple reminder of why we love the game so much.
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