Alan Quinlan: England's arrogant, disrespectful coach Eddie Jones is a poor man's version of Jose Mourinho
England's arrogant, disrespectful coach is a poor man's version of Jose Mourinho, without as many medals or the Portuguese accent
Published 27/02/2016 | 02:30
He has been a bit of a smart arse, Eddie Jones. So much so that if smugness was to become an Olympic sport, I'd bet money on him standing on top of the podium in Rio this summer.
Right throughout the week he has left a trail of insults, jibes and crass statements in his wake, claiming Ireland to be an Aussie Rules team who kick the ball 70pc of the time.
A big deal? Well, for the team who have won the previous two Six Nations championships, it shouldn't be. They should be comfortable enough in their own skin, and their own game-plan, to be able to rise above the name-calling and look at the hypocrisy as well as the inaccuracy of Jones' statistics and realise he is just trying to unsettle them.
You have to wonder who is unsettled. Is it Joe Schmidt, or the man who, after sending his men out to kick the leather off the ball in his first two games in charge has been pretty disrespectful to a side that has been more successful than his team in recent seasons?
Pretty disrespectful is a hell of a lot better than being downright rude, though. Which is what he was when he stepped across the boundary of respect and brought Johnny Sexton's parents into the argument on Thursday. Questioning Sexton's well-being is none of his concern, and he really irritated me. His job is to worry about his own players, not ours.
Additionally, he should respect the position he holds. Jones' behaviour has been appalling - in complete contrast to how his predecessor Stuart Lancaster acted. Where Lancaster was courteous, humble and likeable, Jones is arrogant, a poor man's version of Jose Mourinho, without as many medals or the Portuguese accent.
The irony is his words may yet come back to haunt him because in his attempt to devalue Ireland's achievements over the last two years, he has handed Schmidt plenty of ammo.
A team talk won't be needed. Jones has just delivered it for him and while I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that a newspaper headline will be pinned to the dressing-room wall, all the Irish players will have been made aware of his comments. These things fire players up. I know because I have been there.
I am sitting in a dressing-room, waiting to go out to play for Ireland A against England A and the man I am listening to is getting angrier and angrier. Oppression is mentioned. Seven hundred years of it. Persecution. Empire. All that sort of stuff. Guys are going crazy. Heads get banged off walls.
"We are from Ireland. They are from England. You have to hate them," I hear someone say. That was the attitude. And then we lost and realised that if we wanted to get even, we had to get smart, not mad. Professionalism dawned and we all began to realise that you can't afford to get caught up in emotion.
Screaming and roaring, creating a hatred, having a chip on shoulder, was all well and good but if the end result was a hammering by a better and bigger team then the time came when we had to think of something different.
And it happened. First under Declan Kidney, who understood that if we were going to beat teams like Saracens, then we needed to believe in ourselves first, rather than simply use anger as a tool.
The old way didn't add up. Fire the lads up, send them out to kick the s**t out of the Englishman in front of him and hope for the best. That was the policy. A failed one. Instead we began to look at things like Euro 88, when beating England gave an emerging Irish team the belief to go on and become a great one.
So we changed the way we thought. Men like Keith Wood and Mick Galwey drove home the attitude that beating England felt so much better than hating them. If we were to get results, we realised we had to match quality with quality. We needed a structure not just a cause. We had to catch up physically and improve our mentality.
And there is no doubt we have. In terms of tactics and technique, Irish rugby has improved dramatically over the last 20 years yet, to my mind, given the physical nature of this sport, the capacity for the modern player to be able to build up a bit of anger and nastiness before a game is a good thing because rugby remains a sport where you can't afford to take a backward step.
Motivation remains a big part of the game - so thanks very much Eddie Jones, you have just done that job for Schmidt.
Of course, some old-school motivation has to be matched by modern-day thinking. The days of relying solely on emotion and passion have gone. And for the better. I don't miss them.
Nor do I miss people encouraging us to think of history, of England being bully boys, powerful and dominant. Hating people who are dominant is foolish. But back then, they were the old enemy, perceived as arrogant and words like repression were used, to build our anger. I remember thinking before games - 'A' internationals or Munster matches: 'I am not going to f**king let these fellas step over me today. I will stand up for myself'.
And do you know what? They didn't care what we thought. They enjoyed being hated and being a part of a powerful country with a dynasty. They drew inspiration from going into different cauldrons, getting adrenaline from that word hatred. Do we hate them? No, we don't.
Deep down I admire them. I've been lucky enough to get to know Martin Johnson, Will Greenwood, Lawrence Dallaglio and what struck me was how the love they had for their country was as genuine as the love we have for ours.
At their peak, in 2003, they were a team with an aura about them, the kind Manchester United had under Alex Ferguson, the kind Munster and Leinster had for various periods of the last decade. They won games before a ball was kicked. If an atmosphere was hostile, they loved that.
Only once were they spooked - in 2007. That day in Croke Park.
I was in the squad throughout that season yet more often than not, I never got to tog out. I'd head for home if I wasn't named on the bench. Being at a game was the last place I wanted to be.
But that day was different. It was a day when I was just so proud of how Irish people showed so much respect to the English players during their national anthem. And it spooked them. They expected jeers, booing, people abusing them. Normally, they were able to use that kind of stuff as a motivational tool.
But the level of respect shown shocked them. That day Irish people said, history is history, sport is sport. The people in Croke Park rose above ancient prejudices and behaved with class. And it changed the context of the rivalry.
Which is why Eddie Jones' comments this week stand out so much. Those words lacked respect.
And yet you wonder if they will really have an influence on this game.
Certainly they will be used to fire the Irish players up. But will they determine the result? Not in the way a malfunctioning lineout or a scrum being marched backwards would.
Ultimately this match will be decided on the field not at a press conference and while choosing a winner is far from easy, you can understand why England are the favourites with the bookies.
They have momentum and home advantage on their side. Their injury list is nowhere near as severe as Ireland's. So everything points to a third win on the trot for Jones' team.
Yet, deep down, I believe Ireland can do it, especially if Mike Ross corrects the problems we have been having in our scrum. It'll be close, though. 16-12.