Eddie Jones will be heading down under next month with his Grand Slam winning England side, and will be looking to inflict defeat on his former employers.
Eddie Jones has always been a coach open to new ideas and willing to learn. Always looking for some small thing that he may be able to bring to his coaching that could make a difference.
He recently spent time with former Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink managing Chelsea until the end of the Premier League season. Following that meeting Jones was quoted as saying “it was the best hour I have spent.”
Jones explained “I’ve always wanted to meet him because I like the work he’s done. We had a cameraman when I coached the Wallabies who had worked with the Socceroos and he told me how he operated. He only had the team for 100 days and turned them around.”
Jones explained that the basis of his meeting was to discuss coaching and also managing players. Something Hiddink seemed to do well after the disharmony at Chelsea at the start of the season just finished. Jones was also hoping to meet up with Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
Jones also was interested in discussing with the two Premier League supremos how football has evolved into a reactive game. A key component of the modern-day player’s make up is being able to quickly sense and exploit an opportunity.
As Jones explained to the Observer newspaper “Rugby is far ahead in terms of strength and conditioning, but football has changed so that there is no longer an obsession about formation.Players might start in positions, but it is no longer what shape you play, but how you move in relation to the speed of the ball and what the defence is doing. That is the way rugby is going.” Some may say that Australian hockey was actually a forerunner of this style of play.
Jones having led England to their first Grand Slam in 13 years is also seeing a resurgence in the England club sides in European competition. However he is well aware that the way the game is played in the Northern hemisphere is different to the other side of the world.
When talking about the English clubs playing in Europe Jones was quoted as saying “they are being prepared to play a high collision high set piece game, which is what they need to do in Europe. That is the game in the Northern Hemisphere, and at the World Cup, but there is another part which is that highly unstructured multiphase ball moving continuous rugby.” As Jones conceded English clubs do not need to be good at that style of play. However this is where he sees the challenge ahead as national coach. That is an area that he is focussing heavily on in camp before he and his team head down under.
Jones has already announced that he will be bringing a small squad to Australia. The reason being he wants every player to know that they have a realistic chance of playing. There will be no one on the trip as a tourist.
Jones feels that with a bigger touring party there is not time for that one-on-one interaction between a coach and his players, and those left out start to disconnect. One unhappy player can lead to an unhappy squad.
No longer is rugby about a bunch of amateurs being pulled together for a tour. This is a professional sport, and has been for twenty years. Some of the players have higher profiles than others, some have bigger pay cheques than others, so managing individuals has become more important than it was in the past.
Jones has already lifted the spirits of the England players and fans with the team’s performances in the six nations, and being a coach who never rests on his laurels is looking to gain as much knowledge as he can to keep the squad harmonious and also more adaptable in their style of play.
The series against Australia may well be too early to see if he has managed to glean meaningful information from Hiddink and Wenger and allow the players to be more reactive, but rest assured he will have a long term goal in sight, and will continue to strive toward it in time for the World Cup in Japan.
It should be a fascinating series.