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EXCLUSIVE: ‘I knew they were going to sack me, even though I was doing the job I was paid for’: Eddie Jones speaks out on the bitter end to his time with England and his new goal of global glory with Australia

  • Eddie Jones was abruptly sacked as England head coach in December
  • He has now taken up the same role with the Wallabies and will travel to Australia
  • The 62-year-old has hit out at suggestions he was not committed to England

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Suddenly, it all goes quiet… for several seconds. Eddie Jones is seething. ‘I don’t know how to give a sensible answer to such a stupid question,’ he says, eventually.

The cause of his angst is the suggestion that he had not been absolutely committed or utterly loyal to the end. He is flabbergasted and deeply offended by the claims made in some quarters that a couple of informal chats with the chairman of Rugby Australia, while he was still England head coach, amounted to an act of betrayal.

It takes a while before he can find the words to express his indignation.

Eddie Jones was abruptly sacked as England head coach in December after seven years

Eddie Jones was abruptly sacked as England head coach in December after seven years

‘I can’t give an answer to that because the whole fact that anyone would think that is beyond comprehension,’ he says — just about suppressing the temptation to detonate. There is no doubting the force of the message; whatever went wrong, it was not down to a lack of effort or focus.

Jones flew out of London yesterday and, after a stop-off on the way, is due to arrive in Australia on January 29, to fully launch his second stint Down Under as head coach of the Wallabies. While the rugby world has been convulsing since the news broke last Sunday night, the 62-year-old has been tying up loose ends here.

This farewell interview with Sportsmail is delayed by several hours, but there is a reasonable explanation.

‘I promised to do a coaching session at a school today so I was doing that,’ says Jones, who seems weary after the turmoil of recent days and weeks — since he was sacked by the RFU last month.

He has praised Steve Borthwick, his successor, as a 'committed and focused' coach

He has praised Steve Borthwick, his successor, as a ‘committed and focused’ coach

So much has happened so fast. The rarefied world of elite international coaching has been turned upside down.

Jones sacked by England. Wayne Pivac sacked by Wales. Steve Borthwick hurriedly hired to replace his former boss and Warren Gatland reinstated in Cardiff, then Dave Rennie sacked by Australia, allowing Jones to head home to take charge of his own country again.

It has been chaos.

‘One minute you’re disappointed at not being able to follow through with what you’ve been working towards and the next you get an opportunity to do something a little bit special,’ Jones says.

‘So it’s been the extremes of emotions. Once I got sacked by the RFU, Australia got in touch about doing things a bit quicker. There were negotiations going on in the last two or three weeks about that.’

Remarkably, the RFU did not insert any employment restrictions in Jones’s severance deal, so he was free to take a pay-off, then agree terms with a leading rival.

Jones will now coach rugby following Hamish McLennan's (pictured) plan to 'weaponise' him

Jones will now coach rugby following Hamish McLennan’s (pictured) plan to ‘weaponise’ him

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan had told Sportsmail last month of his intention to ‘weaponise’ Jones, but the assumption was he would be brought in above Rennie as a consultant or director of rugby. Instead, he was brought in to replace the stunned Kiwi. 

‘I’m not the sort of person to be a director of rugby,’ says Jones. ‘I don’t want to just sit around a head coach who can do their job, so it was just a matter of if the job was available, whether I was ready to take it. I was ready.’

Asked if he feels sympathy for Rennie, who was the victim of this dramatic coup, Jones adds: ‘Yeah, I sympathise 100 per cent. It’s a terrible situation but not something I’m in control of. At some stage, I’ll reach out to him.’

He knows his own situation reflects a wider trend in rugby, towards the hiring-and-firing culture which has been so prevalent in football for so long. ‘I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,’ says Jones. ‘That’s how society is operating generally.

‘People want change — they want things to happen quickly. There’s not much patience any more. So it’s definitely going that way and whether it’s right or wrong, it doesn’t matter because that’s the way it is happening.’

The 62-year-old 'sympathised' with Dave Rennie, who was sacked to make way for Jones

The 62-year-old ‘sympathised’ with Dave Rennie, who was sacked to make way for Jones

The end of his tenure came about in a hurry, once sentiment among the RFU hierarchy hardened against him, as England’s dire autumn campaign left them with a tally of just five wins from 12 Tests in 2022. The national team were booed off by fans after being well beaten by a weakened Springboks line-up and the writing was on the wall. Once the post-mortem was accelerated, Jones knew he was doomed.

‘There was always going to be a review, but the review was brought forward, which meant my job was going to be terminated,’ he says. ‘That’s the reality. So then it just became a case of waiting for it to be done.

‘I knew the drums were beating hard. You need a change in the wind for that to be reversed, and I’m not sure whether that was ever viable. You get to a stage where people stop supporting you, so then it’s just a matter of how they will do it (the sacking).’

Jones has not been scarred by the episode. His personal conviction remains fully intact. A question about whether the dismissal has left him bruised at all is brushed off. ‘It had zero effect,’ he says. 

The former England coach named Jack von Poortvliet as a young star with 'the world at his feet'

The former England coach named Jack von Poortvliet as a young star with ‘the world at his feet’

When pressed on what was going wrong — to force the RFU to oust him — he adds: ‘It was going wrong because we didn’t get the results. Was it going wrong in terms of what I was employed to do? No, I don’t think so, but that’s my point of view, obviously.

‘I was setting the team up to do well at the World Cup, which is what the goal was. But to do that you have to win along the way and we didn’t win enough games.’

Now, Jones is looking ahead and insists ‘the rear-view mirror has been turned off’.

He has no regrets about the way he conducted himself in the high-pressure, high-profile job he held for seven years.

Before he considers his mission in the far south, he conveys an enthusiastic endorsement of the man charged with succeeding him as England head coach, his former assistant Borthwick. ‘He is committed and focused, and he’s determined to keep improving as a coach,’ says Jones.

He also praised 23-year-old fly-half Marcus Smith, who made his England debut under Jones

He also praised 23-year-old fly-half Marcus Smith, who made his England debut under Jones

‘He has a great understanding of the English psyche and how to play the English way. He is already a very good technical coach and as he matures as a coach — which he is already doing — he will become a very good coach of people. He will do a fantastic job.’

Despite what has happened, Jones is not about to trash his former team. Can England win the World Cup? ‘Yeah, 100 per cent,’ he says. And what will he miss about his lost role? ‘The players,’ he adds. ‘I loved working with those players.

‘That’s the saddest part about it. I worked with some of those players for seven years, some of them for four years and some of them for two years.

‘I respect their intelligence and desire to get better, so I will miss that. But I’ll be moving on to a new family.’

While his allegiances have rapidly shifted, he is quite prepared to identify some English rookies who could take the World Cup by storm this year.

Jones said England could '100 per cent' win the World Cup in France later this year

Jones said England could ‘100 per cent’ win the World Cup in France later this year

‘There are three or four young guys, starting with JVP (Jack van Poortvliet), Marcus (Smith), Henry Arundell and Freddie Steward,’ says Jones.

‘Those guys have got the rugby world at their feet.’ For the umpteenth time, he also emphasises his high regard for Owen Farrell and his view that the England captain deserves far more credit than he receives.

Jones derives vast satisfaction from nurturing rugby talent. After all the years of coaching, he is still passionate about player development, and is adamant that sharing ideas on the training ground could also be beneficial to him, even now. He would express such sentiments when defending his ongoing involvement with Tokyo-based club Suntory Sungoliath, and that role will not be abandoned when he moves to Australia.

‘Suntory is a constant in my life,’ he says. His new employers and the public Down Under will have to accept he intends to keep working with a multi-national squad in Japan and will ignore any claims of a conflict of interest.

He spoke fondly of Tokyo-based club Suntory Sungoliath as 'a constant in his life'

He spoke fondly of Tokyo-based club Suntory Sungoliath as ‘a constant in his life’

In the same spirit of co-operation with those no longer under his command, Jones would remain open to assisting England players who get in touch with him.

‘There was one player recently who asked for my opinion on something and I gave it to him,’ he says. ‘Even when I left Australia, I was still doing that for a number of players.

‘That’s a relationship you want to have with players and it’s not with everyone, but it goes past being the coach of their team, to a relationship outside of that.

‘That’s one of the things I love about the game, but in England, particularly, it is seen that if you go outside just focusing on your team, then you are not properly committed to the job.’

When he arrives back home, Jones will be fervently committed to the Wallabies and he is starting his new venture with a typically bullish belief in what can be achieved.

There are 'six teams' that have a chance of winning the tournament, Jones argued

There are ‘six teams’ that have a chance of winning the tournament, Jones argued

He is convinced that Australia are one of ‘at least six teams’ who can win the 2023 World Cup — despite their struggles of late. ‘There is a blade of grass between the top teams,’ says Jones.

‘It will come down to who can get their best team on the field, fit, and be best prepared for the way the games will be refereed.’

Although much has been made of a possible quarter-final showdown with England in Marseille, which would be a box-office classic, the more pressing matter for Jones and his team will be trying to out-smart Gatland’s Wales in the pool stage.

In trademark fashion, he wastes no time in launching the mind games, some nine months before the old adversaries lock horns in Lyon. ‘I’ll be fascinated to see how Warren approaches his job,’ says Jones.

The coach is now fully focused on leading Australia to a first World Cup triumph since 1999

The coach is now fully focused on leading Australia to a first World Cup triumph since 1999

‘He’s got an older squad now. Traditionally, Warren’s teams have been renowned for their physical fitness and toughness. That’s why he has been a successful coach. But when you’ve got an older squad; that becomes a bit more difficult.

‘I’ll be watching their progress closely. At some stage, I would like to come over and watch Wales live (in the Six Nations).’

Before he can consider heading back up this way to observe fixtures first-hand, Jones will be doing the rounds Down Under — meeting players and coaches at the Australian franchises.

He has already been holding talks with key personnel by phone and setting his stall out to assess possible targets in rugby league.

His appetite for the project, which includes oversight of the women’s team, is enormous. 

For all the upheaval of the last month or so, his levels of energy and enthusiasm are still typically sky-high.

A tongue-in-cheek enquiry about whether a contract with Rugby Australia until 2027 constitutes his last job is met by this: ‘Well, I thought the England job would be!

‘I seriously thought I’d only coach England for four years, but it ended up being seven. Now I’m going back to Australia and I’m approaching it like it’s all about 2023. I want Australia to win the World Cup in 2023 and that’s all I’m focusing on at this stage.’

Do not bet against him. And however it goes, do not doubt Jones’s commitment to his new cause.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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