CAPE TOWN – “I apologise for our performance. I take full responsibility and I have to work out what I did wrong and work out how to fix it.”
How often do you hear a rugby coach saying those words following a defeat?
I don’t know about anybody else, but I never do. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like this.
Following England’s Six Nations defeat to Scotland, England boss Eddie Jones said just that. It was only England’s second loss under Jones in 26 Tests, and a match in which Scotland scored their first try against England at Murrayfield in 14 years. So it’s pretty safe to say England weren’t underdogs.
Scotland claiming their first Calcutta Cup in 10 years at England’s expense, which also saw Jones’ hopes of securing a Grand Slam vanish following the 25-13 loss. But it’s what he said after the game I found remarkable.
“We knew the significance, we knew what we would get (it) thrown at us at Murrayfield. Sixty-five thousand people all passionate about Scotland, you get off the bus and people are yelling abuse at you. We knew all of that but we weren’t good enough to handle it. You have got to be good enough to handle it and we weren’t today. I apologise for our performance.”
“They beat us at the breakdown, we did not get a defensive spacing right in the first half and they were able to cut holes in us. That’s disappointing. I have got take responsibility for the performance because we weren’t there. I take full responsibility and I have to work out what I did wrong and work out how to fix it.”
“These lessons you don’t want to have but they are the best in the world. We will learn a lot from this. Unfortunately the lesson sometimes isn’t nice to take, but it is a great lesson for us.”
That was it. No excuses. No unwanted weather updates and how it negatively affected underfoot conditions, like the other team didn’t play on the same field. No looking for positives in your team’s performance where there were hardly any (although there were a lot in England’s game). No finger-pointing at a call that might’ve swung the game or blaming the canary that flew across the field. None of that.
Now how can an attitude like that in a group and, more importantly, in a coach, not radiate down to every possible level in a team and change its culture for the better?
It opens the mind’s door to improvement. It sets off an action to seek and analyse what went wrong and to prevent it from happening in the next game.
It nurtures growth, continuous growth. And it motivates a team do better - every time.
Eddie Jones is certainly one of rugby’s most colourful characters. And it’s not uncommon to hear words from him that raise eyebrows because he knows exactly which buttons to push when it comes to needling or taunting opponents. He knows the power of an outrageous soundbite.
But it is the words he spoke which showed another side to Eddie Jones. The ability to take shots on the chin for his team. England can certainly only do better from here on, and they are lucky to have him.