By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 24/07/20 3:48pm
In a wide-ranging and exclusive chat with Sky Sports Rugby, England head coach Eddie Jones discusses sporting principles, Covid-19, Swing Low and rugby’s global structure.
During lockdown, Jones has been in touch with a number of famous sporting characters, including Gareth Southgate, Australia cricket coach Justin Langer and British cycling coach David Brailsford.
What did Jones glean from such conversations?
“I think you’re always just looking for ways to make you’re programme better,” Jones said on Will Greenwood’s Rugby Podcast.
“You’re never coaching as well as you can – you’re always trying to learn, to be better. And there’s always people out there who know a little bit more than you.
“There might be a particular thing that they’ve done culturally or a particular training area or recovery area.
“We’ve [England Rugby] been working particularly hard on our coaching cohesion because we’ve got a new staff so we’ve been looking at ways we can improve the cohesion of the staff, so that’s been a main focus for us.
“With David Brailsford, it’s his ability to see where the opportunity is. What is the opportunity that has come out of this difficult situation for sport?
“One of the things we need to do as a sport is try to create value. We need to be able to sell our sport now because obviously economically it’s tough, so we need to find ways to create value for our sponsors and our fans.
“He was already thinking down that track. Just that ability to seize that opportunity was very impressive.”
DHaving spoken to key leaders in different sports, Jones sees similarities in the effect Covid-19 will have. Indeed, he has been reaching for common ground.
“I think there’s those general issues where economically things are going to be tough for the next period of time,” he added.
“Therefore, how do you create value for your community and how do you restructure your team to cope with the situation that’s going to happen?
“Because we’re all probably going to have a smaller staff and smaller squad to work with, because of the economics.
“How do you send the message through that you’ve still got a high-performance culture and you’re doing everything you can, when you don’t really have the budget to do that?
“So there’s a bit of selling message and restructuring resources to get things right.”
One topic discussed in rugby while the action has been halted, has been England Rugby fans singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – a song with origins in the Slave Trade.
What is Jones’ take on the song and it being sung at Twickenham?
“Look, it’s an awareness and education piece,” Jones said.
“I remember coming in the 2000s and hearing the song when our scrum was under the pump for the Wallabies. And you can hear it ringing out.
“I don’t think anyone, or certainly it didn’t resonate to me, that it was involved in things that possibly aren’t too flash.
“It was a rugby song but given that people now have that awareness that it was involved in slavery, it’s probably a choice people have got to make as to whether they want to sing it – and that’ll be up to the fans to decide.
“And you think if they are educated enough and aware enough, they’ll make the right decision, but that’s not for me to tell them.”
Another interesting debate in rugby is the future of Super Rugby, southern hemisphere rugby and the global structure of the game.
New Zealand are pushing for a new Super Rugby competition that would exclude South Africa and Argentina but include a Pacific Islands team and an undetermined number of Australian teams.
A statement from New Zealand Rugby indicated it will break from Super Rugby’s existing structure to establish a new eight to 10-team tournament next year, with rumours circulating that South Africa could soon align with Europe.
“The main thing is, and I think it’s shown, is that people want a strong domestic competition. And it’s probably fallen away a little bit,” Jones said.
“The difference between cricket and rugby I think – and in a lot of ways the economic models are fairly similar in that the international sport is the part which creates most value – is that in rugby you need to have a stronger domestic competition that can still drive fans through the gate.
“New Zealand’s Super Rugby [Aotearoa] has shown that people want to see the best against the best, which was always what Super Rugby was.
“If you remember back to Super 12, it was the best against the best, the best players playing against each other.
“And over a period of time that has been diluted because of players moving overseas, number of teams increasing and it’s lost that really competitive edge.
“I think the task for each country is to make sure their domestic league is the best against the best and highest level of competition, and if you can do that, fans will come and watch it.”
Source : Sky Sports