Mark Keohane, writing for IOL Sport
I like Eddie Jones. He is great for the promotion of the game. He has a wonderful sense of humour, is astute and he is extremely clever.
But he won’t win England a World Cup and he knows it.
Jones, a former Wallabies head coach and Springboks specialist advisor, should have departed England after the humiliating defeat in the 2019 World Cup final against the Springboks.
Jones is a brilliant tactician and one of the technical masters of the game. He is also a control freak when it comes to his team selections, strategic approach and the application of this approach.
His trust comes in his player selections, but he coaches the team and he is in charge of the team.
It is why Jones always claims responsibility for a result, particularly when his team loses. It is the right thing to do at any press conference.
But this past week Jones claimed responsibility for England losing at home against Scotland in the Six Nations and then blamed his players for the fact that they lost – the very same players he consistently has picked and the same players who failed him in their biggest test in the 2019 World Cup final.
Jones called a special press conference this week to discuss England’s defeat, but then proceeded to throw his players under a big red bus.
Jones was asked if captain Owen Farrell, who had a poor match against Scotland, was ‘simply following orders’ in his tactical approach.
‘Once we get on the field, the players make all the decisions, that’s always been the case. But the responsibility to prepare them for the game is the head coach, and therefore I didn’t give them the right information,’ was his retort. ‘There are five million situations in a game and we don’t coach five million situations.’
What a load of bollocks Eddie.
If you allowed the lunatics to run the asylum, there wouldn’t be injured senior players parading as water runners, there wouldn’t be specialist coaches running on with a kicking tee and there wouldn’t be all sorts of physios and conditioning coaches wired up with direct communications to you Eddie and your assistants in the coach’s box.
You, Eddie, wouldn’t have a device in your ear and a microphone throughout the eighty minutes of play if you weren’t talking to them, belting out instructions and trying to help these players make sense from those on-field decisions that were doing all the damage in your pursuit of victory.
No coach waits for the halftime talk or the post-match review to instruct players. It is on-going for 80 minutes.
If international rugby, or the game at any professional level, was down to players deciding how to play the ‘five million different’ situations, we’d have a decidedly less structured and robotic offering as a sport. We would also have one filled with more drama, more exhibition, more magic and many more mistakes.
Rugby union, with first phase defensive systems so structured, get their attack from the clever guys in the coaching boxes. There aren’t, to quote Eddie, five million different situations to a game. There are more like five and from those five there are a few variations.
And they all come courtesy of the instruction from within the coach’s box.
If not, then the coach and his busload of support staff, could be seated in the grand stand enjoying a spectator’s view.
The players have to implement the plays on the field and make decisions with regard to the plays, but it isn’t a case of carte blanche for any player, be it for Eddie’s England or for Rassie Erasmus’s Springboks.
Jones has always been a great winner, but he isn’t a great loser.
His charisma when on the front foot leads to sizzling sound bites, but he isn’t quite as charismatic when back peddling.
Jones was defiant after the Scotland defeat, as he was after the Springboks defeat. He said he and the team had to move on, but how does he or the team successfully move on if they haven’t learned much?
Jones’s England against Scotland looked as dour and devoid of any strategic attacking plan as England did when taking 100 minutes to beat France’s pups in the final of the Nations Cup last November.
Jones admitted as much when he said that the many lessons of that day didn’t seem to have been learned.
If the players aren’t responding to those lessons, then why does he continue to pick them?
Jones is always good conversation and good value for a quote, but historically he has always had a sell-by date when working with big teams.
For me, his sell-by date with England ended in the final few minutes of the World Cup final in Tokyo when South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe’s twinkle toes embarrassed Owen Farrell’s attempt at a tackle.
There has been very little offered from Jones as to how he and England got it so wrong against the Springboks in the final.
It must be that his players made all the on-field decisions, which simply asks the question why those who got it so badly wrong in a World Cup final in 2019 are still there to get it so wrong again 2021?
Which brings us to the coach, who picked those players to make the decisions he apparently can’t do for them because there are apparently five million instances in a game when a player will have to think for himself.