Eddie Jones met the press this week and warmed up by quipping that New Zealand ran world rugby – has he got a point?
Eddie Jones rarely resists the chance to have a crack at opposition, or anybody else, and this week he was in typically combative mood in the gym at England’s base at Pennyhill Park, in Bagshot. As you go into the main indoor training room at the centre you walk under a sign that says ‘This is where we prepare to win’ – Jones starts his public preparation to win with a few barbs.
Firstly, he said England were not going to let South Africa bully them in November, turned his guns on his own coaching team, who have to improve, and said the All Blacks were only three per cent better than his side.
Fully warmed-up, and off his long run, he then told us that New Zealand-run world rugby and use the northern hemisphere as a nursery for their coaches. When news broke shortly afterwards about the potential for a global season then it struck home that Jones probably had a point about how powerful the men in black have become.
The proposed structure sees Super Rugby played in one block, which suits New Zealand and summer tours put back to July, which suits New Zealand. The Six Nations will stay where it is, which suits the broadcasters with little other sport to put on, and the Six Nations. For what it’s worth the proposed new schedule, with a fallow year for international tours after World Cups, looks so full of common sense it is almost certain not to happen.
There will probably be a bit of give-and-take from both sides of the equator before this is all sorted out but, it seems like the southern hemisphere boys have got their way. And if they are powerful in the suit department, and getting things their own way when it comes to fixtures and season structures, there is no doubt New Zealand rule the coaching world.
At the last World Cup Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales were coached by Kiwis. In the Premiership there is a New Zealander in charge, or near the top of the coaching staff at Bath, Bristol, Leicester and Sale in the Premiership and they are dotted all over the rest of Europe.
It is amazing there is anyone left in Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington. Throw in the Aussies and it is a minor surprise when anyone from the home nations gets a crack at a decent job. Then when they have got the lowdown on rugby up here they tootle off back to New Zealand and get a job with the All Blacks or a Super Rugby side. It is a one-way street.
As Jones said: “New Zealand control the world. They control every bit of rugby, every law that’s changed, NZ drive it. They control rugby in so many different countries. In Japan, they are about to control it, and in Scotland again, the succession plan is already there in place.
“In Wales they control it, Ireland, Georgia. They are a smart country. They develop their coaches in New Zealand, they coach to Super Rugby level, become successful, go overseas and coach the northern hemisphere.
“So they get a full round of education. They come back to New Zealand and they are ready to coach the All Blacks. Steve Hansen and Graham Henry both had stints in Wales which rounded off their coaching experience. There’s no coincidence in the fact that NZ have become a better all-round team.”
Of the current New Zealand senior coaches Hansen coached Wales, Wayne Smith was in charge at Northampton and the scrum boss Mike Cron has worked in the northern hemisphere.
Apart from Stuart Lancaster’s recent stint with Counties Manuka it is hard to think of any British coach who has had a crack down under and then come back to share the ‘intellectual property’ so beloved of New Zealand rugby. Fair enough, like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe the All Blacks have the key to rugby at the moment and they are not going to let anyone else have a look-in.
Jones added: “When I coached Australia, the area you could get at New Zealand was their lineout. Fundamentally, they were weak in that area. At the end of games you could really put pressure on them. Now you can’t. They’ve got one of the best lineouts in the world.
“It’s because Hansen and Henry have had experience coaching in the northern hemisphere, taken the good parts of the game up here, the expertise in the set piece and taken it back to the south.”
In other words the All Blacks are like magpies picking up the best bits of rugby around the world and bringing them home. Jones himself is a bit of a magpie and is picking the best bits from cycling, judo, hockey, football and cricket to help him – and he has been around the block more than once.
He also wants young English coaches to get experience in Super Rugby to help them get to grips with what he calls the ‘unstructured chaos’. At Harlequins the likes of Tony Diprose and Colin Osborne have done stints abroad but these were flying visits rather than jobs, like Lancaster’s, and Jones wants the next generation of coaches to get their hands dirty down under. But opportunities at the top level in New Zealand are few and far between which means all this transfer of knowledge is only going one way.
New Zealand rule the game on the pitch, that’s for sure, but if the northern hemisphere wants to catch them up they had better make sure that they don’t rule in the coaching boxes as well, or in the corridors of power