Adam Hathaway delves into a book that tries to get under the skin of England head coach Eddie Jones and looks at a first team debut by someone who is definitely one for the future.
It must be nearly time for the autumn internationals because RugbySpy has had a heap of rugby books thud onto the door mat at our North London penthouse. We like to think it is something to do with the upcoming Test matches but it may have more to do with Christmas but we’ll let that go for now.
Bah humbug.
Peter Bills’ book The Jersey, about the All Blacks, former Ireland prop Mike Ross’ tome ‘Dark Arts, Doddie Weir’s and Matthew Rees’ autobiographies and, of BBC fame, Ian Robertson’s ‘Talking a Good Game, have had the N16 postman buckling under the load. Bills has certainly done the hard yards chatting to about 90 people involved, past and present, in New Zealand rugby and someone else has done a few hard yards as well.
In the middle of that little lot came ‘Eddie Jones – Rugby Maverick’ by Mike Colman, an unauthorised biography of you know who, which makes particularly interesting reading bearing in mind what is facing Jones over the next 12 months.
Jones is a fascinating bloke and if you are interested in rugby, or coaching, or management this is a fascinating read.
In it Colman, who works at the Courier –Mail in Brisbane, has talked to most of the important people who have crossed Jones’ path since he was a schoolboy at Matraville High School in New South Wales and played first XV rugby with the Ellas.
It all kicks off with the notion of Jones being an outsider in Australia, he is half Japanese, and it seems like he has been an outsider for most of his life.
Colman charts Jones’ journey then from playing at Randwick to coaching gigs up to his current post at Twickenham including stints at Suntory Sungoliath in Japan, the Brumbies, the Wallabies, the Reds, South Africa, Saracens and the Japanese national team.
That is a fair old CV and it is fair to say that Eddie-san, as the Japanese called him, has provoked a mixed reaction along the way.
You have to be slightly careful with books like this when the subject is not interviewed although there are plenty of Eddie quotes in the copy.
Some people are bound to have agenda and there are a few disgruntled assistant coaches, observers and chief executives sprinkled through the near 400 pages.
There are also more than a few people who pledge undying loyalty for Jones and his methods but we won’t spoil it for you by naming all of them.
What is clear is that all the stories about Jones being a workaholic are true, the 6am meetings are detailed, and apparently he has been ready with a quip since he was a smallish hooker playing against big lumps for Randwick.
It is also clear that Jones is still not happy about the way he was treated by the Wallabies in 2005 when he was sacked. Speak to him in person and he will always stress that he is an Australian but that episode rankles and Colman details most of the coughs and spits.
There is an interesting quote from Alan Jones, who coached the Grand Slam Wallabies of 1984 and is now a high profile broadcaster. It is fair to say the two Jones’ did not really see to eye when King Eddie was in charge of Australia and the now-England coach is convinced his namesake was always trying to get him evicted from the Aussie job.
Alan Jones refutes that in the book and the quote that Colman uses will give England fans some food for thought.
“When he got the job, I congratulated him and indicated I would give him my support,” the 75-year-old Jones said. “When it falls apart with Eddie Jones, it falls apart. I would suspect in recent years that he has mellowed a little. He would need to. As to whether or not my commentary cost him his job as Australian coach, I have profound doubts. The scoreboard and the players cost Eddie Jones his job. The argument I’d been trying to get rid of him was a product of Eddie’s imagination.”
Bear in mind that we were warned by some Aussie commentators that Jones could be quick fix merchant and it could all unravel in the third year of his tenure. ‘He is a Jose Mourinho’ they said.
After two Six Nations wins, including a Grand Slam, it did unravel earlier this year with defeats to Scotland, France and Ireland a series loss in South Africa but Jones has the chance to put that right in the next weeks. If that doesn’t fire Jones up then nothing will.
But Jones has been fired up since being sacked by the Aussies in 2005 as Colman wrote in his newspaper column in June 2016.
“Eddie Jones is the ex-son-in-law who has gone away and made good. Now he’s back and wants to buy the big house across the road,” wrote Colman.
“Every time you open the front curtains he wants you to see him driving in and out in his Rolls Royce, and he wants you to think, ‘we never should have let him go’.”
With that in mind Colman also details the reaction of Australians when Jones was a consultant to Jake White’s South Africa when they won the World. Jones’ view is he is an Aussie and he is paid to coach, they are two different things.
Likewise the public reaction when he returned down under with England to inflict a 3-0 series defeat on his old paymasters thanks to Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and co is all in there.
You might not realise it from his public utterances but it also seems that Jones has a sensitive side. Wendell Sailor, the big winger from rugby league who played in the 2003 World Cup for Australia, got the old heave-ho from the ARU when he was done for cocaine use.
Jones was not in charge of Australia then but Sailor, who says he was hung out to dry by the authorities, recalled that his old coach was one of the few people to ring him up.
Not that Eddie is a complete softie. RugbySpy has attended a lot of his training sessions and there is nothing soft about them, and some of the rollicking he dishes out are legendary, but he is a complex character who takes a lot of understanding.
But Colman has had a decent crack at it here.
With the big dog Test stars away the Premiership Cup, the replacement for the old Anglo-Welsh Cup, swung into action at the weekend and it was a chance for the kids to shine.
And on the basis of the first round of games the kids are all right but a couple stood out.
On Saturday at Allianz Park, Saracens beat Leicester 29-21 thanks to a smattering of old hands who have not played much this year, such as Schalk Burger and Calum Clark, but mostly thanks to two youngsters.
Max Malins, the fly-half, who is 21 played in the equivalent competition last season and has all the talent in the world.
As Clark told us: “You see him kick a ball, see him pass and run he glides around and can turn his hand to anything. It is good to see him getting game time and pulling the strings and leading through the week.”
But the BT boys gave the man of the match award to a 19-year-old second row called Joel Kpoku who has played England Under-20s and has been one of Eddie Jones’ apprentices in an England camp.
But this was his first senior game for Sarries and he really turned it on and looks a proper prosect. The RFU website lists him at a shade over 6ft 5in and a shade under 20 stone but he looked bigger than that.
He is not in the worst place to learn how to be a lock as Saracens have a bloke called Itoje, George Kruis, Will Skelton, Nick Isiekwe and Dom Day on their books. That might limit the amount of game time he gets in really big matches this season but don’t be surprised if Jones has another look at him in camp sometime soon.
Clark added: “If you saw him a couple of years ago he is unrecognisable in terms of body shape, how hard he is working and how much he wants it.”
If he does not make the next World Cup, and stranger things have happened, Kpoku can be pencilled in for France in 2023.
By then he would really have filled out.