Eddie Picks Another Fight!
We all know that Eddie Jones will pick a fight with opposing coaches as he tries his level best to get under their skin, up their noses, and in their faces. This is one of his long-established tactics, perhaps born of his Australian heritage and their national penchant for attempting the “mental disintegration” of their sporting opponents. Sledging is considered an art-form and part of the national psyche.
When England toured Australia, Eddie went for Michael Cheika with unrelenting ferocity. This despite them being old friends who had played club rugby together. Cheika resisted the onslaught for a week or so, and then the wall cracked and he started to respond to Eddie’s comments. Eddie grinned, he had got to Cheika! He started to tell Michael Cheika which players to pick if he wanted to stand a chance of beating England!
During the last two years Eddie launched ongoing barrage of comments and digs at Steve Hansen and the All Blacks. It was all about the All Blacks being ripe for the picking, that they were stagnating under Hansen, and that he, Eddie Jones, and his England squad would soon be doing the picking.
Hansen is a tough customer, an ex-policeman and a true New Zealander. He has ignored Eddie Jones much the way one ignores the neighbour’s pesky fox terrier yapping at your heels. Mostly you simply walk on by, but once in a while a foot might just lash out…..
Steve Hansen was quite gentle in his initial response to Eddie’s darts.
He waited until England had a disastrous run in the Six Nations, and then he offered England some advice. Despite finishing in fifth place in the Six Nations, England must not panic, said Steve, because they are a good side.
“They [England] have some very good players and one of the best coaches in the world,” he told the BBC.
And then he threw the knock-out punch. He said categorically that he was not interested in the England coaching job! Sending a message, just a suggestion, that the England RFU are already looking for a replacement for their Australian Garden Gnome.
“I can say I won’t be coaching England,” Hansen told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
The boot hit the fox terrier right where it hurts most!
Eddie has since been quiet about England knocking over the All Blacks!
At other times Eddie has had some choice comments about the Irish, the Welsh, the French, and the Scots… A video recording of his comments about his neighbours went viral and Eddie had to make a public apology. Eddie does not like apologising!
When Allister Coetzee was in charge of the Springboks, Eddie simply grinned. Nothing he said would make the slightest impact on Allister and South Africa, they were already in self-destruct mode.
2018 Rolls Around
2018 has rolled around and Eddie is in a bit of a quandary.
He is feeling the pressure. England have had a bad run in the Six Nations and the whole chariot is swinging a bit lower than intended. Bits are touching the cobblestones, the wheels are a bit wobbly, and Boadicea has to cling on with both hands. Sparks are flying when the metal bits touch the ground.
The English media, as usual, are ruthless, they are calling for Eddie to go.
And there is a tour of South Africa looming.
Back in November 2017 the visit to South Africa was considered to be something of a rest and recuperation tour. It would be a couple of runs against the green-and-gold clad tackle bags, a gentle warm-up for the next Six Nations and the 2019 World Cup.
Then two things happened. England got blown away in the Six Nations, and Allister Coetzee was fired by the South Africans.
A new coach in South Africa, a change that promised a whole new approach to the game, and suddenly the Springboks no longer looked quite as vulnerable….
And then things went really pear-shaped for Eddie as player after player dropped out of contention for his tour to South Africa. Injuries, fatigue, and yet more injuries took their toll.
And quite a lot of those injuries happened during England training camps!
In the last two years all of 15 rugby players left Eddie’s squad training sessions with serious injuries.
Just three weeks ago Bath prop Beno Obano sustained a knee and hamstring injury during an England training camp in Brighton, injuries that will keep him out of rugby for up to a year.
Last week Ben Te’o, Eddies first choice outside centre, was hurt during a weight training session, putting him out of the tour to South Africa.
The attrition rate at England training sessions caused alarm at the clubs.
In England, the players are contracted to the clubs, and their salaries are paid by the clubs. When they are released to play for England, the national union compensates the club for the time a player is on England duty.
But when a player gets injured and is out of action for an extended period, it is the club’s loss. They lose a valuable playing resource, and they have to continue paying his salary and for his rehabilitation.
The clubs started to express their concerns.
None more so than Bath owner, Bruce Craig. He was not happy that his club had lost no less than 5 players as a result on injuries sustained at England training camps.
Craig publicly stated that the number of injuries is “totally unacceptable” and stated “there has got to be significant questions asked about duty of care”, adding “what is going on in the camp?”.
Eddie does not like criticism! He immediately hit back at Craig, telling him
that he is unqualified to criticise his methods during national team training sessions.
Eddie insisted that his methods are necessary to prepare a team for the international arena.
“I don’t have any concerns. We train appropriately for Test match rugby,” said Eddie.
“The only reason I’d alter it is if we need to train harder, or we need to train lighter, to be at our best for Test matches.
“We prepare players for Test matches. I don’t think anyone at a club has the right to tell a coach how to train a Test team.”
Jones told BBC Radio: “I haven’t seen any figures to suggest the number of injuries are unacceptable.
Being Eddie Jones, he simply could not resist getting personal in his response to the criticism. “No-one on our staff has suggested they are, but Bruce is obviously an expert in training-ground injuries, so I’ll have to be subservient to his greater knowledge.”
Craig responded by saying that he would take up the issue with the English Professional Game Board, on which he sits alongside representatives from the English Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and Rugby Players’ Association.
The matter might have rested there, waiting for the return of the England team from their tour to South Africa, but Eddie Jones simply would not be Eddie if he had left the matter alone.
On his arrival in South Africa he immediately launched a personal attack on Bruce Craig, labelling him the “Donald Trump of Rugby”.
“Bruce Craig sounds like the Donald Trump of rugby. He has the same hairstyle,” Jones said.
“Everything we do is about training to get better, it’s not about satisfying some bloke who has got plenty of money in Bath and thinks he knows everything about rugby. I find it all a bit tedious.”
Unleashing his sarcastic best he continued: “We’ve got an owner who thinks he knows everything about rugby. Really, I wish I knew that much,”
“If I knew that much I’d probably have as much money as him. Unfortunately I don’t so I’ll just stick to rugby.”
“Bruce is absolutely obsessed by intensity – Bruce is the intensity king of the world. We train appropriately for test match rugby.”
“It seems like whatever Bruce says, goes. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the CEO of the RFU soon.”
“It’s not my job to speak to club owners, it’s my job to coach the national team and if he’s such an expert on training preparation then possibly he should start coaching.”
“Maybe he wants to coach Bath, who knows? Maybe he wants to coach the Natal Sharks. I don’t really care what he says, it doesn’t affect what I do with the team.”
“The players know that the training we do, we do for them to get better. We want to be the best team in the world and we train to get better.”
Any hope of a rapprochement between Jones and Craig was shattered by this deliberately antagonistic response. This will not be the end of the discussion.
Springbok Dirty Tricks.
Eddie would not be Eddie Jones if he did not try and pick a fight with his South African hosts. He told the media conference that when he last visited Ellis Park, as Australia coach, Nelson Mandela contributed to a Springbok policy of dirty tricks.
“I think it was 2005 and we had beaten the Springboks conclusively the week before,” Jones said. “We came here and I think it was a special occasion for Nelson Mandela. We were waiting for the bus, the bus was late, we got a police escort and that was going slower than the bus.”
“We got to the ground 50 minutes before the game. We went out, warmed up and then had a tribe going through our warm-up. Then we go back in and someone was sitting in the entrance to our changing room in a golf cart – it was Nelson Mandela!”
“We couldn’t ask him to move, so had to wait patiently and we went into half-time 15 points down. That is part of touring South Africa – you have to be resilient and let the uncontrollables go and get on with it. We have to be ready for everything.”
So, in-between fighting with his employers back in England; fighting with the club owners from whence he draws his players, and launching into a personal attack on one of those owners, Eddie is also trying to pick a fight with the ghost of Nelson Mandela?
What next Eddie?