Eddie Jones has not stopped since taking over as England coach after the World Cup and the 56-year old is not one for letting up or looking back...
When England met up at their recent training camp in Teddington, so the story goes, Eddie Jones walked into the room and told the 40-plus blokes there that none of them had ever beaten South Africa. Guess who England’s next game is against on 12 November.
Jones has, when he was coach of Australia, and he was inside the South African camp as they lifted the World Cup in 2007. He has been there and done it, for and against the Boks, unlike anyone in his squad at Test level so no wonder he started targeting Allister Coetzee’s side as soon as he took off from Sydney after the summer tour.
But England have just won a Grand Slam for the first time in 13 years, have beaten the Wallabies 3-0 away from home for the first time since year dot and are on a 10-match winning streak for the first time the glory days of Sir Clive. Surely it was time to give it a rest, have a look back and celebrate the historic wins? Not a bit of it. In the dreaded sports-speak Jones has already drawn a line under it and moved on.
England have won nine out of nine under Jones but from the way he and his team talk you would not know it.
And maybe that is his secret – he just doesn’t take his foot off the pedal. The stories of Jones emailing or calling staff and players at dawn are legion but if the players work hard then the coach works harder and does not believe in looking back.
The Australian was at the Oval Test match between England and Pakistan where he told listeners to Test Match Special that his job was to make players ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ and another task was to make players do things they didn’t want to do.
The Australian tour was reviewed by the players and coaches when they were still down under and was only touched on at their most recent get-together.
Captain Dylan Hartley said: “All our focus now is on South Africa and winning that game. I’ve never beaten South Africa and I don’t think anyone in the squad’s ever beaten them. There are things we look at, things we need to implement and work on in training, things like meetings and reviews, things we can get better at. The focus for the team is always moving forward, always looking forward to the next challenge and working out how we can get better.”
His boss added: “We’re back to zero now, that’s the reality of it. All that’s gone.” So that is the message he is getting through to his players – it was nice while it lasted but what is coming up next?
As former captain Chris Robshaw, England’s very own comeback kid, said: “We watched a couple of clips this time but this camp was very much about the autumn coming up.”
Since the 3-0 win against the Wallabies Jones has spent time at the Tour de France and had a chat with his fellow Australian Trevor Bayliss who is in charge of the England cricket team. He is demanding improvements from his players all the time but is leading the way by trying to improve himself all the time.
But he is wrong on one score.
None of the current players had beaten the Springboks in a Test match but one or two of them could be the answer to a pub quiz question in your local anytime soon.
Ben Youngs and Manu Tuilagi were part of a Leicester side that defeated the-then world champions, at Welford Road, back in November 2009. Youngs kicked 17 points in the 22-17 win and was catapulted into the England team for the following Six Nations, Tuilagi followed in 2011, but no-one in the current squad has beaten the Boks in a no-holds-barred international. A few of them were part of the 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth in 2012 but apart from that – nothing.
It was nearly a decade ago that England last turned over the green-and-gold. After losing to Argentina in the 2006 autumn internationals Andy Robinson’s side got the better of the Boks 23-21 at Twickenham, a game that saved Robinson’s job as head coach. A week later, South Africa won 25-14, a game that saved Jake White’s job as head coach of the Boks, en route to winning the World Cup, and cost Robinson his.
There has probably not been a better time to play the South Africans and for England to get the monkey off their back, and it would be a real boost to finally get one over them.
Jones won’t get the bullet, like Robinson, if things don’t go England’s way in the first autumn international but if they are still drawing blanks against the Boks it won’t be because of a lack of hard work.