Win this terrific biography of Eddie Jones
Personalities don’t come bigger than Eddie Jones, whose colourful and somewhat crazy rugby career was always going to make a blinding book.
The author of Rugby Maverick, Australian journalist Mike Colman, was knocked back in his attempts to make this an authorised biography but pressed ahead anyway – and it was certainly worth the effort. Colman has stolen a march on any subsequent accounts of Jones’s life, relying on his own past interviews and those of many others across two decades or so. It makes for very entertaining reading.
Most readers will be familiar with Jones’s modern shenanigans with England, in which he steered the team to undreamt-of heights before tumbling to earth this year. Even now, observers are unsure whether he is the knight in armour ready to carry off the 2019 World Cup or merely a busted flush.
It was ever thus, with Jones’s CV experiences ranging from the ignominy of a 92-3 Super Rugby thrashing with the Reds in 2007 to Japan’s miracle win over the Boks at RWC 2015.
His achievements can be spun both ways, depending on your motive. He was sacked by the Wallabies, had a disastrous season with the Reds, clashed with management at Saracens, and was banished to coaching club rugby in Japan.
All true yet more than counter-balanced by numerous high points: a Super Rugby title with the Brumbies, a Tri-Nations title in 2001, silver as a head coach at RWC 2003 and gold as an assistant coach four years later. And, of course, astonishing success with Japan.
His force of character was responsible for altering the whole mindset of Japan’s national team, where defeats used to be accepted too readily.
When captain Toshiaki Hirose made the mistake of laughing during a press conference following Japan’s 2012 defeat by the French Barbarians, Jones responded with a scathing verdict on his players that stunned the assembled media.
The chapter on how Jones shook up the Japanese is fascinating. To develop leadership, he’d set up meetings at which the coaches didn’t turn up and secretly film which players took charge. He introduced 5am sessions so that players were training three times a day – 5am, 10am, 3pm. He went to see Pep Guardiola to learn about how to find space.
His famous work ethic could be called admirable or absurd. Roger Gould, who quit after just two Tests as an assistant Wallaby coach to Jones, says that working 18-hour days is simply bad management.
Ross Reynolds, lineout coach for Australia’s 2004 European tour, reveals they worked 165 days straight. “We worked incredibly long hours. You lost all context of weekends or public holidays. After games we’d be doing reviews and finishing up at 3 to 4am. You’d send him an email and get an answer straight back.”
Jones’s ability to come up with a game plan and implement it is remarkable. Indisputably, he is a coaching genius, and it is only some of the man-management stuff that can drag him down. Even his translator in Japan got the hump a bit because the harsh messages he was required to convey from Jones were making him unpopular with the players!
For every detractor there is a loyal ally. Wendell Sailor points out how Jones stuck by him after the wing tested positive for cocaine use. “Even if I got into trouble now, he’d be the first person I’d call,” he says.
And the South Africa players that Jones helped coach to the 2007 world title were so disgusted that the Australian wasn’t allowed a Springboks blazer – because of his nationality – that they refused en bloc to wear theirs to the World Cup presentation dinner. Bryan Habana later sent Jones his own blazer, framed, so that he didn’t miss out.
This being a biography, there is plenty about Jones’s early life, which includes his first encounter with racism aged nine when he witnessed an exchange involving his Japanese mother, Nellie (who was to gain fame last year after telling Eddie off for swearing on TV).
Jones was to have a front-row seat on the career of the coruscating Ella brothers, first meeting them when he was five, and he was no mean player himself.
He was a tigerish hooker, small at 5ft 6in but a tireless presence in the loose and a tenacious chop tackler. He was nicknamed Beaver, a better moniker than the ‘Eddie Moans’ tag he later acquired for being so outspoken.
He was part of a brilliant schoolboy side and an all-plundering Randwick side, but luck was against him when it came to national honours.
His remorseless sledging of Brian Smith in a club game created a powerful enemy in the watching Alan Jones, and when Bob Dwyer succeeded Jones as Australia coach, he surprised everyone by plucking Phil Kearns out of second grade to become the Wallaby hooker.
It was a snub that hit Jones hard. “I was filthy for 12 months. I had my worst year in the game,” he says. “But in the end it taught me a lot. I learned that you are going to have disappointments and you have to move on.”
Move on he did, and what a career it has been. The final chapters of his life are still to be written, but you can guarantee they will be utterly compelling.
Eddie Jones: Rugby Maverick is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP £18.99, and you can buy it here. They’ve kindly provided us with six copies to give away in a competition.
For a chance to win one, answer the question below, filling in your details. The competition closes on Thursday 13 December.
Terms and conditions
The competition closes at 23.59pm on Thursday 13 December 2018.
Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book, Eddie Jones: Rugby Maverick.
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