England manager Eddie Jones 'feared for his safety' after physical and verbal attack by fans on train
Eddie Jones, the England head coach, said on Wednesday he would never travel on public transport again after he was physically and verbally abused as he made his way back to London by train following Scotland’s Calcutta Cup victory in Edinburgh.
Jones is believed to have feared for his safety as he travelled alone on Sunday morning, firstly to Manchester. He was a guest at Old Trafford of Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United beat Chelsea.
British Transport Police is investigating a second incident as Jones then journeyed back to London after the football match on Sunday evening on a train full of football fans. Another passenger alerted the police, who met the train at Euston. Although no arrests were made, inquiries are continuing.
After England’s 25-13 defeat by Scotland, Jones initially posed for selfies on the 9.15am train to Manchester from Edinburgh Waverley before the atmosphere turned sour on the three-hour 11-minute journey. Sources say that at one point Jones was “jostled”, and that the fans involved were Scottish.
The head coach disclosed on Wednesday at the England training base in Oxford that it was an “uncomfortable” experience, one that “massively surprised” him and one that he would not be repeating.
Jones said: “I try and do the right thing by the fans but if that happens then you’ve got to have a look at your own safety. I never knock back a request for a selfie unless I’m racing to somewhere. I did a lot.
“For me to travel on public transport, I thought was OK. I’m a human being. I don’t consider myself any different from anyone else. But I’ll make sure I won’t in future. It’s as simple as that. I can’t. Because it was shown on Sunday what happens when I do.
“That’s the world we live in. It wasn’t comfortable. It was a bit of both [physical as well as verbal]. After a loss, no I wouldn’t [do it again].It’s [all] part of the challenge.
“When I came to England, I knew there were going to be challenges. As an Australian coaching England, there were always going to be challenges and that’s just one of them.”
While he did arrive safely and was able to take his seat alongside Sir Alex for the game, there is little doubt Jones was shaken. He declined to go into detail, stating that he “did not want to make a big deal of it”.
But he did make one telling point as to the invective that swirls around such fixtures.
Jones said: “If you’re in a position of responsibility, you’ve got to be careful what you say. Because if you talk about hate and you talk about rubbing peoples’ noses in the dirt, and all those sorts of things, it incites certain behaviours. Are they the sorts of behaviours that we want to see?”
Scotland prop Simon Berghan, despite being born in New Zealand, had to return to a press conference before the game and correct himself after he had spoken about the traditional “hate” for England.
Former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings was quoted last week as saying that although he admired Jones, “as a supporter of one of his opponents, you just want to rub his face in the dirt”.
Jones also disclosed that he had once had a similar experience when attending a match at Bath. He had not thought to request a Rugby Football Union escort or car to be laid on as he considered himself to be on a private visit.
No RFU complaint has been made either to police or Virgin Trains.
Jones admitted he was surprised: “Massively, but that’s the world we live in. I don’t want to get into it, guys. I don’t want to make a big deal about it. It’s over and done with. We march on – we’ve got a game against France.”
There was at least closure on one other pushing-and-shoving incident from the weekend. The Six Nations committee decided that no further action would be taken over the clash between England’s Owen Farrell and Scotland No 8 Ryan Wilson in the Murrayfield tunnel before the match. It noted that there was “no evidence of violent conduct”. But both teams have been reminded to uphold “the reputation of the tournament at all times”. Jones said: “I have spoken to Owen but that is the end of the matter.”
The England head coach has more pressing matters to tend to, notably England’s failings at Murrayfield. He pledged that there would be “no sleep” among the management team to right the wrongs ahead of the game against France in Paris on Saturday week.
But he also warned that there were no shortcuts to end the principal point of frailty, that of “decision-making”, at the breakdown and in defence. “That is the next step, fixing things on the field.” said Jones, who breaks camp in Oxford on Thursday before reconvening again at Pennyhill Park on Saturday. “It took New Zealand eight years to fix things on the field and we’re trying to do it in four. It’s a harsh lesson, one we don’t want to have again but the likelihood is we could well have it. We are working round the clock to fix it.”