Ed­die Jones would have been worth wait­ing for: RFU boss

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ed­die Jones would have be­come Eng­land coach even if he had in­sisted on see­ing out the first year of his con­tract with The Storm­ers, Rugby Foot­ball Union chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Ritchie told The Times.

Ritchie, whose own po­si­tion was in some doubt af­ter Eng­land’s dis­as­trous first round exit at the 2015 World Cup they hosted, ad­mits he knew Jones would bring a ‘cer­tain amount of ar­ro­gance’, a very dif­fer­ent trait to his down to earth pre­de­ces­sor Stuart Lan­caster.

That al­lied to Aus­tralian Jones’s sub­lime coach­ing and mo­ti­va­tional skills has proven a tri­umphant com­bi­na­tion as Eng­land have gone through 2016 win­ning all 13 Testsin­clud­ing the Six Na­tions Grand Slam and a his­toric 3-0 se­ries win in Aus­tralia.

Ritchie ad­mits how­ever, he and the RFU were pre­pared to wait for their man had 56year-old Jones and South African Su­per Rugby fran­chise the Storm­ers in­sisted on him stay­ing for at least a sea­son. As a fall­back op­tion they would have in­stalled Lan­caster’s as­sis­tants, Andy Far­rell, Mike Catt and Gra­ham Rown­tree as care­taker coaches. “If it had been ab­so­lutely im­pos­si­ble and we couldn’t have done it, we would still have gone for the longer-term op­tion and had some sort of hold­ing op­er­a­tion,” said Ritchie of the al­ter­na­tive of the troika stay­ing on. “That was al­ways a pos­si­bil­ity. That’s what we would have done,” added Ritchie, for­merly chief ex­ec­u­tive of the All Eng­land Club re­spon­si­ble for run­ning Wim­ble­don, Ritchie thought at first on land­ing in Cape Town last Novem­ber he had no chance of se­cur­ing Jones’s sig­na­ture sim­ply be­cause of the breath­tak­ing scenery.

Jones, who had boosted his stature with his han­dling of Ja­pan at the World Cup where they had pulled off one of the great sport­ing up­sets in de­feat­ing two-time world cham­pi­ons South Africa, proved more mal­leable than he had feared. “The two of us sat in that ho­tel room for four hours just talk­ing through ev­ery­thing,” said Ritchie, who took on his present role in 2011.

“Peo­ple say the first few min­utes of any dis­cus­sion, you get an idea of whether you can work with some­one or not-and the next few hours con­firmed that (I could). “It was clear he was in­ter­ested in the job. It wasn’t as if I was try­ing to per­suade some­one who was ram­pantly un­will­ing to do it.”

Jones, who guided Aus­tralia to the 2003 World Cup fi­nal on home turf only for Eng­land leg­end Jonny Wilkin­son to dash his hopes with a win­ning drop goal in the dy­ing sec­onds of ex­tra-time, even ac­cepted his two rec­om­men­da­tions of cen­tral con­tracts and se­lect­ing play­ers play­ing abroad were not go­ing to be the RFU’s pol­icy.

How­ever, de­spite his ced­ing on those Ritchie ad­mits Jones is ‘no shrink­ing vi­o­let’. “That is part of the deal,” said Ritchie. “It was very clear: Ed­die is no shrink­ing vi­o­let and nor was he ever go­ing to be. You want tal­ented, com­mit­ted peo­ple who have views of their own.” — AFP

Ed­die Jones

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