With England's new head coach Eddie Jones about to start a four-year contract, we offer some insight into what the RFU, England players and fans should expect
By Rich Freeman
If any of the England players want to know what their new boss is like then they could do a lot worse than contact Toshiaki Hirose. The former Japan captain knows only too well the two sides of Eddie Jones.
Back in 2012 following a game against the French Barbarians, Hirose, as is the Japan way, tried to laugh off a particularly poor performance. Jones’ reaction was caught on video and went viral as he tore into the captain, the team and offered his resignation on the spot. It was a sign that nothing less than perfect is good enough for Jones. He has little time for people not doing their jobs properly.
The two eventually patched things up and when Hirose was no longer assured of a place in the squad, Jones showed the fiercely loyal side of his character by taking the Toshiba player to the Rugby World Cup on the grounds he was an invaluable member of the squad off the field in terms of his leadership role.
That loyalty as well as his recognition of talent will almost certainly see Jones reunite with Steve Borthwick – new employers, Bristol permitting – who was Japan’s forwards coach for the last few years. However, whether the two will be able to do what they did with Japan in terms of the training regime is a different matter.
Jones’ long-time association with Japan meant he knew exactly what needed to be done to get the team ready for a World Cup and the camps were not for the feint-hearted. Up every day at the crack of dawn, the team put in at least three sessions a day, with Jones cracking the whip at every opportunity.
“Only in Japan could that have been done,” said one of the other coaches, while most of the players I talked to admitted they had at some stage harboured thoughts of quitting.
But on that memorable day in September in Brighton, Jones, proved he knew exactly what had to be done – the long term goals being more far important than winning a popularity award.
Jones may have slowed down a little since his stroke in 2013 but he is still a man for whom there are not enough hours in the day when it comes to rugby. When asked this week if he could talk about his new role he responded quickly – as he generally does – and said to call him at 5.30 a.m!
As with his players he doesn’t suffer fools gladly when it comes to the media and there were a few journalists in Japan who would regularly have their questions torn apart or who would get nothing more than one-word answers.
While in intensive care he was particularly upset when one foreign journalist, who had never watched the Brave Blossoms play in person and proffered that the Japan team hadn’t improved and they were just canon fodder for the top teams.
Despite having his computer taken away by hospital staff, Jones wrote his response on three pieces of paper, photographed them on his mobile phone and sent it to the UK where Japan were on tour so they could be edited for his column.
His general relationship with the press was positive and his press conferences were generally good humoured affairs, though his interpreter would often struggle with the cricket references peppered in.
During the World Cup, Jones’ pressers were one of the must-attend events to attend and it will be interesting to see how long the relaxed nature lasts under the intense media scrutiny he will surely now be under.
One characteristic that should prevail through all of this is Jones’ straight talking. He isn’t afraid to upset the status quo or the establishment if he thinks they are getting in the way of the success of the team he is in charge of. The RFU, the England players and rugby fans are in for a fun ride.
I’ll be watching with interest…