Eddie Jones, one of the men touted as the new head coach if Stuart Lancaster is replaced, has said England need an “experienced” man in charge who could handle pressure at the highest level.
As the Rugby Football Union inquest into England’s exit begins, Jones, who led Australia to the 2003 World Cup final, was a technical adviser to the 2007 winners, South Africa, and masterminded Japan’s campaign this year when they became the first side to win three group matches and fail to reach the knockout stage, said he believes that courage and experience are needed to maximise the potential of the world’s richest union.
“An international team needs a coach who has the courage to be different,” he said. “A concern of mine is that too many teams are trying to play like New Zealand. That is not because there are so many coaches from that country scattered around the world: Joe Schmidt has not taken Ireland in that direction nor has Warren Gatland with Wales, which is why they have both done very well.
“If we [Japan] had lost to the United States in our final game, people would have asked why we didn’t kick the ball rather than run with it. Because I am an older coach now, that sort of criticism does not worry me, but when you are a younger coach you feel the pressure and tell your team to kick the ball more. I think that’s what happened to Stuart Lancaster. I have no idea what the RFU will do but they have to change it because they could have a bloody good team.”
Jones said he had not been approached by the RFU and would be flying to South Africa on 1 November to start work in Cape Town with the Super Rugby side the Stormers. He has not expressed an interest in the England job and would listen, out of politeness, if approached without giving any indication he would like to be in the running.
“I’ve signed to go to the Stormers but I have a great affinity for Japanese rugby,” he said. “Who knows what will happen in the future? The one thing about international rugby is that you need experience. You need someone who has been around.
“I remember a comment of José Mourinho when someone asked if he would manage England and he replied: ‘I’m too young, maybe when I am 50 or 60 I will do it.’ When you get to international level, it’s all about managing a squad and having the independence to be able to do what you want to do. You always get a lot of media pressure and that is the difference between coaching at international level and the ones below.”
Japan created history when they became the first tier two nation to beat one of the southern hemisphere giants in the World Cup. Their 34-32 win over South Africa created huge interest, not just for the result but for the way Jones’s team played, attacking with verve and skill.
“We set out to be the best attacking team in the world and that meant having courage,” Jones said. “It involves risk because you will turn the ball over. If you watch games at the moment, the defence advantage is enormous. Australia and Wales played a fantastic Test match but it was so difficult to score a try.
“It is getting harder and harder to attack which is why teams are relying so much on power, something we [Japan] do not have which is why we have to use skill, running lines and combinations to break down defences. It is much harder to create a good attacking team than a good defensive one and what is pleasing for me this World Cup is the supporters we have attracted: when we drove in on the bus for the United States game, there were fans with Japanese flags and most of them did not look Japanese.
“Before this tournament we were one of the joke teams people would put out their B side against and pile up 80 points. Winning three games out of four shows the quality we have and what I hope in Japan is for the mind-set to change so that the enormous potential there is fulfilled in time for 2019. Players need to know it’s not just good enough to simply turn up at training, or attend a meeting and have no questions or not do any analysis. Rugby in Japan is a comfortable environment. Good players go to good universities and work for good companies. They are always in the first XV and the coaches never say anything so the players never develop. We changed that with the national team and that change now has to happen throughout the game so the mind-set becomes professional.”