Rugby This is one beautiful constituent.
Eddie Jones had been planning for the 2007 Rugby World Cup as soon as the previous one was over. From the moment his Australia side were agonisingly beaten by Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal in Sydney in 2003, he began plotting a strategy for the next tournament in France. Alas, with a few weeks to go, it’s fair to say things weren’t going to plan.
Jones’s career had hit rock bottom. Having been sacked as Wallabies coach in 2005 after a run of eight defeats in nine games, he had just endured a disastrous season with Queensland Reds, finishing bottom of the Super 14. His final game in charge, against the Bulls, had ended in a humiliating 92-3 defeat. Not only was he out of a job, but his love of the game had run dry. That was the point at which he got a phone call from an old sparring partner called Jake White.
White was the coach of South Africa, and though he had his differences with Jones in the past, he also remembered one meeting in particular. It was a couple of years earlier, ahead of South Africa’s game against Australia at Brisbane. Jones wasn’t going to spill any secrets on his former Wallabies charges, but over coffee he did offer one piece of advice. He warned White that the pitch at the Suncorp Stadium was particularly quick, and would suit Australia’s running game.
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An incredulous White argued that a pitch was a pitch. As it turned out, Australia ran rings around the Springboks in a lightning 49-0 thumping. White realised at that moment that Jones was the sort of coach who could bring a unique perspective. Now, with just a few weeks to go until the World Cup, he made his move. He called Jones and invited him to spend a week watching some Springbok training sessions, and offering his thoughts.
Captain John Smit remembered that first training session, at Bishops School in Cape Town, extremely well. Jones was watching from the sidelines, and afterwards Smit asked him what he thought. To Smit’s shock, Jones rated the session “maybe four out of 10”. “Quite honestly,” Smit later said, I thought we had shot the lights out. He was quite honest about his assessment, but he said it in a nice way, and gave you ways to fix it.”
White didn’t take much convincing. “In that week, I saw how much value Eddie added,” White says in Mike Colman’s book ‘Eddie Jones: Rugby Maverick’. “He took existing ideas and put a fresh spin on them.” Jones was due to join Saracens in the aut
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