To some he is a stubborn man who is also a master of “chaos theory” — but as far as England rugby head coach Eddie Jones is concerned he is just trying to be a “reasonable person”.
Few within rugby union, however, are indifferent to Jones, with the 61-year-old Australian, whose England side face Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday, rarely shy in expressing his opinions.
As the son of a Japanese-American mother and an Australian father who attended a state school, Jones’ background was far removed from that of the privately-educated players who dominated the rugby scene in Sydney, where he grew up and played for Randwick, as well as New South Wales, but without winning a Test cap.
A school teacher by profession, Jones coached Randwick and had spells in Japan before returning to Australia where he led the ACT Brumbies to the 2001 Super 12 title.
Appointed coach of Australia, Jones guided them to Tri-Nations glory in 2001.
Two years later, he took the Wallabies to a World Cup final in Sydney where only England great Jonny Wilkinson’s extra-time drop-goal denied them the Webb Ellis Trophy.
‘Stayed too long’
Australia’s fortunes, however, plummeted during the two years after the 2003 World Cup, a run of eight defeats in nine matches costing Jones his job.
“One of the things I learnt about that, I stayed too long,” Jones told former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio in a 2016 interview.
“The thing I’ve learnt about international coaching, you do a good job for four years, you build the team up and then you give it to someone else to do.”
Jones, however, will have been in charge of England for double that length of time when his current contract expires following the 2023 World Cup in France, after which he has said he will step down.
He became England’s first foreign coach after their embarrassing group stage exit on home soil at the 2015 edition, guiding them to the final in Japan two years ago where they were well-beaten by South Africa.
Jones had previously masterminded Japan’s shock win over the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup and been a consultant to the South Africa side that defeated England in the 2007 final.
Few coaches enjoy being out-smarted but the way Jones bristled at the ‘no ruck’ ploy of then Italy coach Conor O’Shea, now a fellow employee at England’s governing Rugby Football Union, during a 2017 Test at Twickenham suggested he took it as a personal insult.
Questions over the methods of Jones, who has shown few obvious signs of easing up despite a stroke in 2013, resurfaced following England’s record-equalling low finish of fifth in this year’s Six Nations.
A recent report in The Times newspaper cited anonymous accounts from players and former staff to portray Jones as a harsh taskmaster presiding over a joyless environment.
But as for claims of a “brutal” regime, Jones told BT Sport last month: “I think the fact that I’ve been coaching for this period of time would indicate that that’s not the truth.”
Former All Blacks head coach John Mitchell’s exit means England are now working with their third defence coach in Jones’ six-year reign.
“I try to be a reasonable person,” added Jones. “There have probably been times when I haven’t been as nice as I’d like to be.”
It is not just backroom personnel where there has been a high turnover, with Jones having called up 178 players in total to his England squads, a tally Sunday Times rugby correspondent Stephen Jones said amounted to “chaos theory”.
And yet he can be loyal too, with Jones recalling Manu Tuilagi for his first Test since March 2020 this weekend when many would have given up on him because of the powerhouse centre’s woeful injury record.