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'Awesome' Felix Jones gets high praise from Springbok stars after World Cup triumph

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Defence consultant Felix Jones. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Defence consultant Felix Jones. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Defence consultant Felix Jones. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

As a player, Felix Jones' World Cup ambitions went unfulfilled. Injury ruined his 2011 chances, Joe Schmidt didn't pick him four years later but on Saturday he stood on the podium wearing the emblem of a different nation, with a gold medal around his neck, and soaked up the moment.

Had injury not intervened, the former Munster and Leinster full-back could still have been playing at this World Cup.

Down on the Yokohama pitch during the warm-up, he threw himself into the fray; kicking the ball back and forth with the Springbok kickers, running among the backs and conducting drills with his face animated and his whistle at the ready.

As a player, he was known as the hardest-working man in the Munster dressing-room and by all accounts he's thrown himself into coaching in the same manner.

He has kept his counsel throughout this tournament, but others have spoken highly of his contribution to a cause he joined on the eve of the tournament after he left Munster.

Rassie Erasmus had tried to bring him with him to South Africa when he left Ireland in 2017, but as soon as the Killiney, Co Dublin, native became available, the Springbok boss snapped him up as a coaching consultant.

Vague

The title is a vague one, but one suspects he could be with the Springboks for some time to come given how well things have gone.

Before the tournament, he outlined his role and his intention to get stuck in.

"I missed the 2011 World Cup with an injury the week before we flew out, I missed out on selection in 2015 and then retired shortly after. It's mad to think that was only four years ago," he told SA Rugby's YouTube channel.

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This field is required

"I've absolutely thrown myself at the challenges over the last couple of years and this will be no different. I just intend to give energy and to help out where I can.

"In Munster, I coached the backs, the attack and a bit of the kicking game, but here Rassie has me doing a bit more analysis and a bit of help on the pitch where I can.

"Things are fairly settled here as it is, the guys know what they're about. There are a lot of experienced Springboks in there."

One of those experienced Springboks, Francois Louw, paid tribute to the Irishman's efforts.

"Felix has been immense. He's really brought an exciting dynamic to our game," the Bath flanker said.

"He was someone who Rassie worked with at Munster and, knowing Rassie, having played under him for 15 years, he would only bring someone who could add their side, someone he had a lot of faith in. Felix slotted in quite easily, the boys bought into his strategies, his passion, his game-plan and he's definitely assisted with our success."

Initially, it was suspected that Erasmus's main goal in recruiting Jones (above) was to compile information on the Irish set-up with a quarter-final against Joe Schmidt's men a likely outcome until things came a cropper against Japan.

Clearly unhappy with the move, Schmidt described Jones' appointment as "awkward" before the tournament.

He had taken his former player to Japan as a coach in 2017 and felt that the intel could prove costly. He alluded to his frustration once again when he said he wouldn't contact Ronan O'Gara to tap into his knowledge of the All Blacks out of respect for his former employers at the Crusaders.

But Jones' influence clearly extended far beyond compiling a game-plan to beat Ireland and the players have spoken glowingly about his contribution.

"He has been amazing and has brought so much," Springbok scrum-half Faf de Klerk said.

Analysis

"We saw all the work he did off the field, doing analysis on the other teams, and he's a real hard worker.

"The boys absolutely love him. He brought so much, gave us so much confidence and he's been a great addition to the squad."

Double World Cup winner Francois Steyn also hailed the ex-Munster man's input.

"Definitely, especially on attack and some skills stuff, he's really built that intensity on training, which we sometimes lacked before he came," he said.

"He definitely had his part. His analysis is awesome, he's busy the whole day on that computer," he added.

After the celebrations with South Africa die down, Jones will have decisions to make on his future but involvement in this coaching ticket will certainly enhance his prospects.

He may remain with the Boks ahead of the 2021 Lions series or he could pursue options in Europe but there is no doubt the presence of a World Cup on his CV will stand to him.

And it sounds like he has plenty of references ready to endorse his credentials if needs be.


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