Eddie Jones expresses his disappointment and acknowledges his shortcomings by saying, “I have disappointed people and I am aware that I am not good enough. I bear the wounds of my mistakes.”
Eddie Jones is once again awake early, even before 5 AM in Tokyo. It may seem like a gloomy time to discuss disappointment and shame. Having lost seven out of nine matches while coaching his home country of Australia last year, including a disastrous performance in the World Cup where his team was eliminated in the group stage, Jones has recently taken on a new role with another former team, Japan. However, his reputation has been damaged and his skills as a coach and personal integrity have been mocked by both Australian and English critics.
In 2019, Jones guided England to the World Cup final with an impressive showing against New Zealand. This solidified his reputation as one of the top coaches in Test rugby, although his style could be abrasive. However, the following three years were chaotic and despite having a 73% win rate, which was the highest for any England coach, he was dismissed in December 2022.
Jones mentioned that England was victorious in both available competitions in 2020 and also won a series against Australia on their home turf in 2022. Most experienced coaches in professional sports are familiar with the feeling of being despised or fired. Jones shared with me that when he was let go from his previous role as head coach of the Wallabies in 2005, he had shed tears in the elevator on his way out.
“What were my emotions?” Jones reflects, repeating my question about his disappointing comeback to Australia. “It had a sense of finality to it. I felt like I had disappointed others. But I also recognized the importance of playing a role in helping Australia understand their current state.”
He states: “I am willing to admit that I have failed. I was unable to bring about the change I desired within a short time, but I put in a lot of effort and still failed. This is not satisfactory. I will bear the consequences.”
Jones typically does not show remorse or regret. Throughout our numerous conversations over the years, he has often said, “I don’t care what others think, mate.” Therefore, his acknowledgment of letting people down is uncommon, but it is evident that Jones still maintains his usual confident attitude.
He encourages taking on challenges and being open to failure, rather than doing nothing. Despite being disappointed by the lack of immediate results, he believes that their efforts will benefit Australian rugby in the future.
When questioned about the errors he made in the previous year, Jones admits, “We attempted to implement too many changes in a limited amount of time, causing instability. I specifically mishandled my interactions with the media. While it was necessary to garner attention for the game, I may have been overly confrontational in that aspect. Ultimately, when you challenge the media, they will inevitably seek you out.”
His rapport with the press was damaged following claims that he communicated with the Japan Rugby Football Union during his time coaching Australia for the World Cup. Jones acknowledges that he took part in a video conference in August with a recruitment firm hired by the JRFU, but maintains that he was simply responding to a solicitation to discuss his previous experience in the role.
Jones expresses his disagreement with other changes that could have been made. He believes that the safe choice would have been to keep the senior players, but he questions if that would benefit Australia in the long run. He states that this World Cup was a stepping stone for Australia as they will be hosting the tournament in 2027. Sacrificing a World Cup is not an option, but the team needs to progress and Jones believes they tried to do it too quickly, resulting in their inability to perform.
Jones expresses that he greatly appreciated coaching Australia once more and dismisses the notion that it was a wrong decision to take the position. He firmly believes that it was not a mistake as he was offered the opportunity and was eager to try it, despite the potential risks involved. He questions the purpose of being on this planet if we shy away from challenges.
Is there a triple negative when I inquire about his confidence being affected? “No, no, no.”
I struggle to believe this. Was he not uncertain? “Yes, I admit that doubt is present in everything. Nobody wakes up every day and confidently proclaims: ‘I am completely correct.’ Each morning, we question if we are making the right choices.”
“I recently read a summary of the book ‘Only the Paranoid Survive’ written by Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel. The book’s title holds true – only those who are constantly wary and doubtful are able to survive. Having doubts and fears about everything may seem overwhelming, but it ultimately pushes you to make calculated decisions and stick to them. Personally, I always have doubts, even about something as simple as doing this interview.”
I believe that paranoia can be seen as a concerning and undependable mindset, which is vastly different from having a reasonable amount of self-doubt. Jones agrees, stating that when facing a difficult task, one naturally evaluates and may have doubts. However, by gathering information and carefully considering the situation, one can make decisions that benefit the organization.
Despite the criticism directed towards Jones, he continues to display a strong passion for rugby rather than wallowing in self-pity. Despite Australia’s disappointing performance in the World Cup, Jones was impressed by the high quality of the knockout games. He expressed his enjoyment and noted that it raised the bar for the sport. He also found it interesting to observe the preparations of Ireland and France leading up to the tournament, as they had put in a lot of effort but still fell short of making it to the semi-finals. This demonstrates the overall improvement in the sport and the need for a collective effort to succeed. Jones emphasized the importance of utilizing all available resources, placing them strategically, and having the right players and play style in order to achieve success as a team.
France and Ireland both experienced close defeats to South Africa and New Zealand. Was their performance affected by a mental block, particularly for Ireland who has never advanced past the quarter-finals? “I don’t believe so. They are both well-prepared teams, but on that day, they didn’t quite have what it takes. It could have been one decision from the referee, one lucky bounce, or just being slightly off in one aspect of the game. These small things can determine the outcome between victory and defeat.”
Following a tumultuous and frequently unhappy span of four years, England came within one point of making it to the final once more. In a 16-15 defeat, they nearly overcame South Africa. Jones praises his replacement, stating “Steve Borthwick did an exceptional job.” Borthwick assumed leadership of the team less than a year prior and focused on fundamental, grind-it-out style of play with a highly seasoned squad, resulting in a strong showing at the World Cup.
“I was delighted for Steve and the players, having collaborated with them for eight years in both Japan and England. I had a strong connection with many of the team members, but unfortunately, they did not have the necessary skills to advance.”
I believed that [England] needed to enhance our style of play, but it was challenging and I was unable to do so. Steve, on the other hand, went back to the basics of England’s game, which was a wise decision. As a result, they exceeded the achievements of any previous team that had reached the finals four years prior.
Who is predicted to come out on top in the Six Nations tournament this year? The competition is shaping up to be quite intriguing. France and Ireland are expected to have the upper hand, but Ireland is undergoing a mini-revamp as their star player, Jonny Sexton, has retired. He was a key contributor to the team and will be difficult to replace. Additionally, there may be some changes in the team due to potential injuries, such as captain Peter O’Mahony. However, Ireland’s efficient system for developing new talent should make the transition smoother compared to other countries.
France may have the most mental preparation to do as they had set a goal of winning the World Cup. The entire country was invested in this goal, but they faced tough situations and fell short. It will be intriguing to see how they bounce back. Fabien Galthié has a significant coaching challenge ahead, especially with a young team who may unintentionally become complacent.
England is experiencing a shift in generations, while Scotland is expected to remain stable. Italy is once again swapping out coaches. Warren Gatland has returned to Wales and brought back experienced players, leading them to a strong performance in the World Cup. It is unclear if he will continue with this strategy or focus on developing younger players. This upcoming Six Nations tournament is expected to be one of the most competitive in recent years.
Jones started his four-year agreement with Japan on January 1st after arriving in Tokyo on November 26th. He is now leading a team that is in dire need of new players. During the previous weekend, Jones observed a match where 35-year-old Michael Leitch, a four-time World Cup player, performed well. It remains to be seen if Leitch can continue as a role model for younger players at the next World Cup. Jones acknowledges that it would be unwise for him to make any judgments at this point, as he has just arrived and there is still 80% of the season left to play.
In the 2015 World Cup, Jones motivated Japan to an unforgettable win against the Springboks. Following their defeat, South Africa went on to win the next two World Cups after implementing significant changes in their talent development process. Jones also suggests that Japan needs to make drastic changes in their system. Despite their impressive performance in the 2019 World Cup, Japan only managed to win 7% of their matches against top-10 ranked countries leading up to 2023.
Although the quality of the Japanese league has greatly improved due to the addition of international players, Jones is now facing a significant challenge. Nevertheless, he is pleased to return to the league.
His apartment has the perfect location, as he could easily hit the National Stadium with a three-iron from here.
Will Jones be even more driven to demonstrate his abilities as an exceptional coach? He pauses for a moment before responding, “That’s a valid question. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what others think. The most important thing is what you achieve with your players. While there may be some players who don’t appreciate my methods, especially those who I have had to let go, I believe that the majority would say that I have helped them improve. That is what truly counts. If someone were to shoot me right now and ask if I have acted in the best interest of my players, I could confidently answer yes. That is all that truly matters.”
Jones is excited about his upcoming match against England in June, which will be his first match with Japan. He reflects on the World Cup match between Japan and England, noting that it was neck-and-neck until the 50-minute mark when Japan lost seven set pieces. Jones acknowledges the importance of having a strong set piece, stating that it is necessary to compete with the top eight teams. Therefore, he plans to work hard to improve in this area and is eagerly anticipating the match.