Jones masterminds another big upset at Rugby World Cup
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — Eddie Jones has done it again, this time with England.
The mastermind of the “Miracle of Brighton” which sent ripples through the sporting world, Jones has now ended the All Blacks’ eight-year reign as the kings of rugby.
England’s 19-7 win over New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semifinals on Saturday was 2½ years in the making for Jones, the team’s first foreign-born coach. All that planning resulted in one of the best English performances in their history.
Jones stood in a technical box for much of the match, swaying from side to side. He looked pensive, determined, but not nervous.
Just like his players.
“He makes life as simple as it can be for a player, which is kind of what you want,” said England flanker Sam Underhill. “You don’t want to be overloaded with messages or anything that is too complicated, you want to have a clear idea of what you are doing and how you do it. He has delivered that.”
Jones has always delivered at World Cups, ever since leading his native Australia to the final in 2003 — somewhat against the odds — where it lost to England. Four years later, he was a consultant for South Africa when the Springboks won the global tournament for the second time.
As Japan coach, he was the architect of the most staggering result in the sport’s history, a 34-32 win over South Africa. Now he has changed the fortunes of England, from a team that failed to get out of the pool stage at its home World Cup in 2015 to this win over the All Blacks and another World Cup final.
Master of mind games, Jones has been putting the heat on the All Blacks all week, saying pressure would be “chasing them down the road” as they sought an unprecedented third straight world title.
He asked a room full of reporters during the week whether England had a chance of winning on Saturday and barely a hand was raised.
Never underestimate Jones, the arch-strategist. The Jose Mourinho of rugby.
Of course, it was Jones’ idea for England’s players to stand in a V-formation — and slightly inside the New Zealand half — for the haka.
“We wanted to show that we’re ready, that we’re together and that we’re ready for anything,” England center Manu Tuilagi said. “It was just something different.”
And that calmness England showed as New Zealand, out of nothing, scored a converted try to close the gap to 13-7? Yep, that stemmed from Jones, too, and his work on changing England’s once-fragile mentality.
Underhill said Jones had been the calmest man in the group this week, just when the players expected him to be at his most intense.
“He has been relaxed,” Underhill said. “You give off energy to one another and, as a group, we have given off that we were confident and we want to be in control.
“We are in as good a place mentally as we can be. He is a part of that.”
Jones said he would be trying to keep a lid on the euphoria of beating the All Blacks, which a Jones-coached Australia team managed to achieve in the 2003 World Cup semifinals only to lose the final.
“We have the right focus,” Jones said. “We set out four years ago and in our first meeting we said we want to be the best team in the world. We are not the best team in the world. We are in the game that will determine if we are.”
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80