Mako Vunipola England coach Eddie Jones looms as Wallabies’ greatest threat in World Cup quarter-final

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Updated

October 19, 2019 09:30:10

In the wake of his side’s convincing defeat of New South Wales during the 1999 Super 12 season, then-ACT Brumbies coach Eddie Jones — as has always been his custom — could not resist having a dig at his critics.

“Someone said I was a coach with floaties on, maybe I am,” a tongue-in-cheek Jones told the media at Canberra Stadium after the Brumbies beat the Waratahs 27-16.

“But I think we swam pretty well tonight.”

Jones’s musings, made in his second season as Brumbies coach and two years before he led the Canberra-based franchise to a maiden Super 12 title, revealed much about his coaching personality.

The “floaties” reference illustrated the chip on his shoulder — a trait common among successful coaches — that has helped define his career, while his comments highlighted the supreme confidence he has always had in his ability to devise game plans to defeat the opposition.

On this particular night in Canberra, Jones astutely identified that Waratahs inside centre Nathan Grey was the linchpin of the visitors’ attack, so he came up with a ploy to neutralise this threat.

Whenever the Waratahs had a lineout throw, Jones left the Brumbies one player short in the set-piece and instead positioned his robust number eight Gordon Falcon as an extra defender near the centres to help shut down Grey.

Grey, as The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time, had “no room to move in [the] midfield and was put out of the game”. The Brumbies won handsomely and Jones’s reputation as a master matchday coach and tactician began to take shape.

This reputation was among the reasons Jones rose to become Wallabies coach (2001-05) and why he now finds himself in charge of England.

His next challenge will be ending Australia’s Rugby World Cup campaign in this evening’s quarter-final at Oita Stadium in Japan (6:15 AEDT). And, as talented as the England playing group is, Jones’s tactical nous looms as the biggest threat to the Wallabies’ hopes of reaching the semis.

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