Keeping Up With Jones

Eddie Jones has never received the credit he deserves in Australia, although occasionally when he succeeds overseas a nation basks in reflected glory. The reason being he did not win the Rugby World Cup, even though he and his players came so close, they lost to England, and worse still at home.

Eddie Jones is still a great coach. Four years later he helped South Africa win the World Cup working alongside Jake White. He was the mastermind behind Japan’s unlikely and historic win over the mighty Springboks at the Rugby World Cup last year. A game that will be replayed time and time again because of its standing in terms of upsets. It ranks up there with David and Goliath.

Having taken over a demoralised England outfit who bowed out of the World Cup, as host nation, in the group stages, Jones now has the team edging towards a Grand Slam with two games to go.

Jones made the bold decision to replace Captain Chris Robshaw as leader of the team. Unfortunately for him the news of his plan was leaked to the media, yet he stuck to his guns and made what many thought was a controversial choice handing the captaincy to Northampton Saints Dylan Hartley.

Hartley was to put it politely, in some people’s eyes, “flawed.”

They say the front row is a special place where only those who have played there understand its true goings on. Eddie Jones is one of that breed and hence he maybe saw not only the technical merits of Hartley’s game but also so much more.

Hartley had missed more than a year of rugby due to suspensions. He has served five bans, and in 2013 after being selected for the British and Irish Lions tour and been issued his kit when he was de-selected.

Jones has always been a great reader of men. Jones knew that all of Hartley’s indiscretions were on the pitch; none were for misbehaviour away from the pitch, which may have tarnished the game.

He knew that Hartley was argumentative, as was one of his predecessors who represented England so well, Brian Moore. However Jones also realised that this was a man who hated to lose, who set high standards, who had fought his way to the top and that was why every game was so important to him; all he had to do was channel that passion and frustration.

Hartley by all accounts survived a tough upbringing in Rotorua in New Zealand. There were no silver spoons as he had to match it with his Maori counterparts. When he moved to England with his mother, he was not transplanted to a Public School where rugby was played, and a pathway to the top has far less speed bumps. Instead he had to fight his way up through the low-paid academy systems at Worcester and Northampton.

Hartley is not one to shy away from a challenge. He is, whether he realised it until Jones came along, a leader, a man people will instinctively follow as his drive is infectious.

England must beat Wales and France in the their last two six nations games to give Coach and Captain a dream first season. Wales at Twickenham, and France in Paris, will not be easy, but it would be a brave man to bet against Hartley’s men if they overcome Wales. Should England do that, will Eddie Jones receive credit for making such a bold decision? Unlikely, but by now he is used to that.

Keeping Up With Jones
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