In his most wide-ranging interview yet for O2 Inside Line, Eddie Jones speaks to Vernon Kay about his childhood, his early days in rugby, key influences, coaching philosophy and preparing England for Japan.
What were you like as a kid?
Reasonably studious, relatively quiet. I was half Japanese and half Australian so I was small and the way to make it in schools in Australia is to be good at sport. So I was desperate to be good at rugby and cricket. I wanted to play cricket for Australia. That was my dream. My mother is Japanese and she didn’t want me playing sport. Everyone in Australia starts playing the game at five and I wasn’t allowed to start until I was 10, but then I got a little bit good at it and they were more supportive. They were great parents because they were supportive but they weren’t pushy.
Did you enjoy the physicality of rugby?
I loved that rugby was such a tactical game. In rugby you can win any number of ways but you’ve always got to be physical, you’ve always got to be tough and you’ve always got to be committed to the team but then there are different ways of winning and that’s what attracted me the most.
What were you like as a young man playing rugby?
I was very dedicated, very committed. I used to go for a run every morning at 6am. We had a Dalmatian dog and I used to run three miles every morning and then I’d go down the park and practice line out throwing. Then I’d finish school or work and I’d go and do weights by myself. I knew I had to get bigger and stronger and the only way I was going to do that was by myself.
What type of player were you?
I was a good team man. I always worked hard for the team. You had to find a way to be competitive. If you were an 80kg hooker you had to have something going for you because you haven’t got size, you haven’t got speed so I made my mark as being a good team player and then maybe being able to get in the heads of the opposition a little bit. I had a brief period at Leicester and it was one of the best experiences I had and I think that probably led me to coach.
This opportunity came to play for six months at Leicester. I was playing this game and the ball got kicked out, so I grabbed the ball and threw a quick line out. I felt this hand on the back of my shoulder and it was the tight head prop who said: ‘son, we don’t do that around here’. It really got me to understand how important it is for a team to have an identity because immediately when you started playing for Leicester no one needed to speak about the culture, that was how it operated. You fit, you do your job and you are part of the team. It was a great experience I had, I loved it.
What drove you to coaching?
I was the Randwick first-team hooker and the starting New South Wales hooker and I went back to the second team and one of the coaches said to me one day: ‘you talk a lot so you may as well coach the team as well’. I ended up coaching the second team as well for a season and we won the comp, so I thought I may as well have a go at this.
What made Eddie Jones the coach he is?
There was a prime minister in Australia called Paul Keating and I remember reading something about him and he said: ‘whenever you are starting out on a career go and find the people who are about to retire because they will tell you everything’. They have nothing to hide, they want to share, so I have gone out of my way to consistently find coaches who have been in the game a long time and who are towards the end of their career and pick their brain. I’m getting to the stage now where people are coming to me. I’ve always shared my information, I’ve never hidden it and that makes you more urgent to find new ways of doing things.
Who has had the biggest influence on you?
When I was coaching in Japan, the biggest influence on me was Pep Guardiola. He played that Tiki-taka football and in Japan we had to find a way to beat bigger teams as we were small and it was only through moving the ball quickly that we could do that. I went and spent 90 minutes with him. He stayed until 7pm, he had a full day working and gave me his time at the end of the day talking about his approach to that and it was a really insightful discussion we had and helped me coach Japan.
"The coach who had the biggest influence was Pep Guardiola."— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 2, 2018
Find out what Eddie learnt from Pep. Look out for the full O2 Inside Line interview on Wednesday evening.#WearTheRose pic.twitter.com/9dWnB9ogVM
Since I’ve been in England I’ve been lucky enough to meet guys like Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Gareth Southgate and from each of them you pick up little bits.
Do you wear blinkers when you’re preparing a team or do you keep an eye on the opposition?
I probably have an 80/20 rule. 80 per cent on us, 20 on them. When I was younger I probably looked too much at the opposition because there is only so much you can do over a certain period of time. We only have the team for five days before the first Test against South Africa in November, so you look at your players and how you want to play. English rugby is generally quite conservative. It’s about set piece, defence and we haven’t tried to change that but we know to win the World Cup we’ve got to add a little bit and we are in the process of doing that. It’s not always easy.
Do you have any hobbies?
I used to be a keen golfer but I wasn’t very good so it was quite stressful. I’ve binned that but am thinking of making a comeback. I love cricket, love watching sport and now we have a little dog, it’s a Papillon, but she doesn’t take much walking.
You are two-and-a-half years in, how do you think it’s gone?
I’ve always seen it as a four year project. The first year was about establishing a foundation which I think we did reasonably well and we probably had more success than we were entitled to have. The second year was about making sure you have the foundation right and we did quite well. The third year is always the most difficult year as you have got to make changes, as some of the team you have had for the first two years may be at the end of their careers, so you have to regenerate the team and as we’ve found out there is some pain involved in that. Winning is not a straight line but I think we’re in a great position.
What is the one thing you wanted to change about England before you started and have you?
Yes, about clarity of play and about being English and not copying other teams.
"Be English. Don't be a copy of other teams."— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 3, 2018
Why England must embrace their identity to beat New Zealand.
Look out for the full in-depth O2 Inside Line interview this evening #WearTheRose pic.twitter.com/AGqRfZMFHI
New Zealand are the benchmark of international rugby and everyone attempts to copy them but you can’t copy something. You have to come up with your own way of playing and particularly for the English it’s important we keep being English. That’s not to say we can’t evolve.
Are the players thinking about the World Cup in Japan yet?
They won’t start thinking about that until after the Six Nations, because they know to get to the World Cup there is certain things they need to do. They need to get into the squad.
We don't need to peak now, and we don't need to peak before, we need to peak for the final on 2 November and that's the secret to a Rugby World Cup campaign.
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