Eddie Jones is a brilliant coach and a master tactician who can get the best out of any team. Photo: AP Photo/Christophe Ena

CAPE TOWN – Eddie Jones is a gem among rugby coaches. He understands the marketing of the sport and he, more than any international coach I know, appreciates he is integral to the marketing of rugby in the build-up to big Test matches.

Jones, this week, has been in full force. He has provided the media with a headline every time that he has opened his mouth. He has spoken with conviction on some things, with humour on others and with the deadliest of ambiguity, when it comes to influencing the headline.

If only more rugby media conferences could have the Jones touch.

Jones copped it two years ago when he insulted Ireland during a business breakfast and I experienced Jones enough, as foe when he coached Australia and as ally when he was with the Springboks, to know that it was a tongue in cheek comment.

There was a perception that Jones, while with the Wallabies, and Jake White, in his early years as Springbok coach, were the fiercest of rivals. Jones would ridicule White at press conferences, refer to him as ‘Spungebob’ and aim a barb at the ego of his counterpart and the Bok players.

White would respond and the week was set for all out attack. Everyone, in Australia or South Africa, knew there was a Test match to be played.

In private they were good mates who wanted to put their match on the back page of every sport publication.

Jones, with the Springboks, was equally vocal in press conferences and as charming as he was cutting.

I recall him being asked on the eve of the 2007 World Cup final against England which of Percy Montgomery or Jonny Wilkinson would he pick to kick at posts if his life depended on it. Jones didn’t blink and asked the journalist what the respective kicking percentages of the two had been at the World Cup. The journalist replied that Montgomery was kicking at 80 percent and Wilkinson at 60 percent.

“Well, there’s your answer mate,” said Jones.

Two years ago I bumped into Jones on the eve of the third and final Test against the Springboks in Cape Town. He had the year earlier led England to 18 successive wins but the series loss to South Africa meant England had lost five in succession.

“I’m good mate. You know how it goes: one week you’re in the penthouse and the next you’re in the sh*thouse ’

Jones loves coaching international rugby’s best teams, and when he coached Japan, he was the pioneer who put Japan on the world map in beating the Springboks in 2015.

He is a master tactician who can get the best out of any team. He is a brilliant coach and knows how to work a media room and a big Test week.

He’s put all the pressure on the All Blacks and convinced the world it would be a shock if the All Blacks lose.

Only deep down, he honestly believes that it would be a shock if England didn’t beat the All Blacks because it is the match he has been targeting since his first week in charge of England four years ago.

@mark_keohane


IOL Sport

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