How Eddie took down the mighty All Blacks
SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones has revealed the media warfare strategy he unleashed in an effort to destabilise the All Blacks before the 2019 Rugby World Cup semifinal.
England demolished the All Blacks in Japan at the end of a week in which he claimed the All Blacks may have spied on his training sessions. He also labelled the New Zealand media as “fans with keyboards”, trying to coerce them into grilling the All Black coaches harder.
Jones said that the world’s best teams are so close physically and tactically that mental preparation is often the factor which decides the winning and losing of games.
“We wanted to try to put pressure on the New Zealand media, stir things up a bit, put some pressure on Steve Hansen during the week,” he said in an interview with Newstalk ZB‘s Martin Devlin.
Former Aussie and Japan boss Jones indicated managing the media message had become an even bigger part of his strategy since taking over at England.
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Jones produced a telltale giggle when asked if he was ever going to reveal who the spy might have been. At the time, he said England’s security had spotted someone with a long lens in an apartment.
“If you allow the media to run the race they will run the race,” Jones had told Devlin earlier.
“You’ve got to try and exert some control and get the messages you want out there. I want the players to hear messages that aid their performances.
“We know that everything we say [publicly] as coaches the players do listen to, or someone in their family listens to it.
“You’ve got to continually reinforce with your team that the only noise which is important is the noise in the room.”
Jones described the All Blacks quarter-final win over Ireland as containing “some of the best rugby we’ve seen – they were absolutely brilliant”.
“I watched that game again six weeks ago – they played some superb rugby,” he said.
“[But] they had to get up again for us and England are seen as a team which always underperforms. The pressure was on New Zealand, there was less pressure on us.
“I couldn’t get it right for the South Africa game [England were thrashed in the final] – get them back up. You’re trying to manage the rhetoric.
“The more players hear [something] the more they believe it. It is the coach’s job to try and change that – it’s bloody hard.
“I needed to paint a stronger picture in the head of our players about how difficult the game was. But there’s always the risk of being too negative. It’s a fine line.”
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Jones said rugby had “sauntered” along in the professional era and needed changes to be sustainable.
In terms of rules, tacklers had been allowed too much latitude, slowing the game down.
“We’ve gone too far down the line of allowing contests to take over – we’ve gone away from being hard on the tackler rolling away,” he said.
Return to the tours
There is a thirst for mini-tours, of three tests and midweek games, Jones said, although the classic 10 or 12-week tour was a thing of the past.
“Three or four-week tours would be great for rugby – it’s a soap opera with the same characters in different situations.”
The new Wallaby coach
Australia had made a smart move, employing a Kiwi as coach. He said Dave Rennie was a “hard, uncompromising but caring guy”.
“They’ve got good players – he’ll get the right balance in the Australian side,” he said.
He was impressed at how young players had proved doubters wrong in maintaining their fitness levels.
“The lockdown has taught me how much I love rugby and coaching,” he said.
“There are going to be economic changes, that’s a worldwide thing in every area of life.
“There will be smaller [rugby] squads and staff, movement of players for a period of time will be less.”
His assistant Mitchell, the former All Black coach, was a changed man.
“He used to be a banging on the table type of coach, now he is much more caring, questioning and consultative type of coach.”
Advantage Ian Foster
With a new head coach in Ian Foster, the All Blacks could not regard their next meeting with England as a chance for World Cup revenge.
“With Foz in charge, there is no pressure on him. They can throw the ball from side to side, it will be a great game.”