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England rugby head coach Eddie Jones reminisces as he prepares for post-coronavirus return | UK News

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England’s rugby head coach Eddie Jones is adamant his memorable career is yet to summit.

And the energetic coach says he’s more prepared than ever to return to work and get there, thanks to lockdown adding “another couple of years in the tank”.

The prospect of another gruelling four-year World Cup cycle won’t be an issue for one of the game’s super coaches, despite the disappointment last year of inching so close to rugby’s biggest prize.

England head coach Eddie Jones (centre) during the training session at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot. March 4, 2020.
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Jones during an England training session at Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, just before lockdown

Jones’s autobiography picked up the Rugby Writers Book of the Year at this week’s Telegraph Sports Book Awards.

Reminiscing on his extraordinary life so far, he said he “never wanted to be a coach”.

“I always remember when I was about 15 my father said to me ‘just pretend you’re listening to the coach’, so I never had any great respect for coaches.

“And then I had a guy called Bob Dwyer who was absolutely brilliant – he basically ended my career as a player. I ended up coaching the team, and we won, so I thought ‘well, this isn’t too bad. I might have a go at this’.”

Jones has had stellar professional coaching career that has seen him take an under-performing Wallabies side to a World Cup final in 2003, when Jonny Wilkinson’s late drop goal broke Australian hearts – including his own.

He also reinvented Japanese rugby by taking the national team to new heights at the 2015 World Cup, with an historic victory over the Springboks and England’s electrifying win over the All Blacks in last year’s World Cup semi-final.

Despite these achievements, he believes his greatest achievement is yet come – although he admits England’s win over New Zealand is a close contender.

England head coach Eddie Jones prior to the Guinness Six Nations match at the Stade de France, Paris. Feb 2, 2020.
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Jones’s autobiography My Life And Rugby was named Rugby Book of the Year

“Beating New Zealand in a semi [final] was satisfying,” he said.

“They’re a tough team to beat. They have a winning record of 90% and so to beat them in the semi-final after they’d played brilliantly in the quarter final was satisfying. But that put us in a dangerous position for the final and we weren’t good enough to get out of that dangerous position. We were being praised and we couldn’t get ourselves to the right level, and that was my fault.”

But he has no regrets about how England approached that final, saying he wouldn’t have done anything differently, just better.

“What I wasn’t able to do was get the team back up,” he said.

“I thought we did a great job of getting ourselves back down but getting up to the level you need to be at the World Cup, that we didn’t manage to do, and that was the environment I created.”

Eight-and-a half months on, he is still not over the disappointment of that final match.

“In reality, I’m still recovering now, but having learnt from the 2003 World Cup, you know, we’re not going to be obsessed about winning the next World Cup,” he said.

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“We’re going to be obsessed about being better. Yeah, we’ve already spoken about how we want to be the greatest team that rugby’s ever seen and that’s about getting better every day. That’s what the team is going to be obsessed about.”

Obsession is a word he uses frequently.

He has spent lockdown in Japan with his wife’s family but he’s on Zoom constantly to talk with players and staff or pick the brains of other coaches from other sports to continue to learn his craft.

He said he mellowed as a person after suffering a stroke almost seven years ago, although some members of the media who’ve been on the receiving end of some prickly press conferences would beg to differ.

“I was obsessed by the game – I still am obsessed by the game – I think most coaches are,” he said.

“When I found that other people didn’t have the same level [of obsession], I couldn’t understand why. And now I do understand why and I try to be more tolerant. I think generally I am, [but] there are occasions when I’m not so tolerant.”

He’s confident that the Six Nations will return and be finished in October, but as for rugby synching up the world rugby calendar, he’s not so confident.

“It’s like one of those movies where everything is perfect,” he said.

“It’s that movie. But generally those perfect movies never have the perfect ending.”

It’s clear the perfect ending he’s working towards is France in three-and-a-half years.

He must get back on the training pitch.

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