Sunday 22 September 2019

'My mother made me carry a handkerchief around all the time when I was a kid, so I've got good manners' - Eddie Jones will be a breath of fresh air for England rugby

File photo dated 28-10-2001 of Eddie Jones
File photo dated 28-10-2001 of Eddie Jones

Andrew Baldock

There is hardly ever a dull moment with Eddie Jones - and late on a Sunday night in Gloucester last month proved no exception to the rule.

Jones' wonderful Japan team had just signed off their 2015 World Cup campaign by beating the United States at Kingsholm. In doing so, Japan became the first nation to win three World Cup pool games and not secure a quarter-final place.

Post-match attention, though, soon turned to England and whether or not the 55-year-old Australian might be in contention for a head coach's role that ultimately did not become vacant until 31 days later when Stuart Lancaster departed Twickenham following a miserable tournament that saw his team suffer pool stage elimination.

And Jones was at his smiling, mischievous best, once the inevitable England question came his way.

"If anyone comes knocking on your door it's polite to answer. That's all I have said," Jones said.

"If anyone comes knocking on my door, I answer and say 'hello, how are you?' and then listen to what they have got to say.

"I have not said I am interested. All I've said is I will be polite. I am a polite guy.

"When you are 55, you are brought up with good manners. My mother made me carry a handkerchief around all the time when I was a kid, so I've got good manners. I listen to everyone who talks to me."

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The Rugby Football Union came calling all right, pretty much banging down Jones' front door in their pursuit of a man who becomes England's first overseas head coach since they began playing Test match rugby 144 years ago.

Jones, who was officially unveiled as head coach of the Cape Town-based Stormers only last week, will now swap Table Mountain for Twickenham, and one thing is assured, his reign will not be uneventful.

Born in Burnie, Tasmania in 1960 to a Japanese mother and Australian father, Jones played rugby as a hooker for Sydney-based club Randwick - David Campese is their most celebrated former player - and was in the New South Wales B team that lost 39-19 to the 1989 British and Irish Lions.

After retiring from playing to concentrate on a teaching career, Jones returned to rugby as a coach in 1994, initially taking charge at Randwick, then taking up various roles in Japan before being appointed boss of the Canberra-based Brumbies, culminating in them becoming a first non-New Zealand team to be crowned Super 12 champions.

That 2001 title triumph was followed by Jones coaching Australia A to victory over Graham Henry's 2001 British and Irish Lions in Gosford, and Australia head coach became his next port of call after 1999 World Cup-winning supremo Rod Macqueen retired.

Under Jones, Australia won the 2001 Tri-Nations title, and two years later he guided the Wallabies into a second successive World Cup final, but Jonny Wilkinson thwarted them with a match-winning drop-goal during the dying seconds of extra time in Sydney as England were crowned world champions.

Jones lost the Australia job in 2005 after a poor run of results, then a short-lived stint with Queensland Reds followed, but he remained a man in demand and consultancy and advisory posts followed with the likes of Saracens and South Africa's 2007 World Cup-winning squad before he became Saracens rugby director in 2008.

He did not stay long at Saracens, though, and he returned to Japan with club side Suntory Sungoliath, where domestic title success followed, then the national team job unsurprisingly came his way and a 2015 World Cup campaign to savour unfolded, highlighted by a stunning 34-32 victory over South Africa in Brighton.

Jones had been due to coach the Stormers in their 2016 Super Rugby campaign, but he has now made an immediate return to Test rugby instead.

There can be little doubt that he is among probably only a handful of coaches worldwide with the stature to fit England's exacting requirements.

Rest assured, though, Jones will want to do things his own way. He does not suffer fools, he demands and expects high standards and some considerable shake-ups on and off the field must be expected during the coming months.

One heck of an eventful rugby journey is about to commence, and will it lead England all the way to the 2019 World Cup final in Japan? Strap yourselves in, because Eddie is about to switch on the engine.

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