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Super Coach feels the fire in cauldron

of international rugby

Eddie Jones - Australian Wallabies rugby team Head Coach

Business Grow director Jonathon Walsh interviewing Eddie Jones, Tokyo, 2004

It’s a try! The crowd is on its feet and going wild as the Australian Wallabies rugby team score between the posts to clinch the game at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium.
Some rugby greats are born, while others, like Australian rugby coach Eddie Jones, are created in the cauldron of top-level international rugby. The likeable, down-to-Earth Sydney-native has been leading Australia’s charge to become the best team in the world since 2001 - and there’s not a half time break in sight. Having won two rugby World Cups, Australia can rightly claim the title of the most decorated rugby nation.

Eddie’s path to the national coaching job kicked off when he began coaching Second Grade at Sydney’s Randwick Rugby Club in 1994. After being invited to instruct a touring team from Japan’s Tokai University, the former teacher was recognized for his coaching talent by the Japanese Rugby Union in 1996 and moved to Japan to coach the national side. In the following year, Eddie took over the head coach job for the Japanese corporate team, Suntory.
Flush with his success in Japan, he returned to Australia where he took the helm of the Australian provincial team ACT Brumbies for the 1998 season. After leading the squad to an emphatic Super 12 final against the formidable New Zealand Canterbury Crusaders team, Eddie was voted Coach of the Year two years in a row at the annual Super 12 awards. He then steered the Australia 'A' team to victory against the British Lions in 2001 and took command of the Wallabies in the same year.

“I want to be as good as I can be at everything I am doing.”
Why rugby? Inspired by a high school P.E. teacher who was “fanatical” about rugby, Eddie joined up and played Rugby League until age 15 before switching codes to Rugby Union.

Only the rare few players make successful coaches. What magic formula has led Eddie to make a successful transition from player to national Coach? “My teaching background has definitely been a significant factor,” he says. “When you teach you learn to communicate information which is essentially what coaching is all about. I was also very lucky to spend 18 months in Japan where I coached 2-3 sessions a day to 80-90 students at Tokai University. All that repetition certainly helped, but the teaching background has been the most significant factor.”

Eddie’s career has progressed in leaps and bounds in the 10 years he has been coaching. What has driven him to be there for so long? “I want to be as good as I can be at everything I am doing,” he replies. “I have been lucky to have had a few breaks along the way that have allowed me to progress quicker than most other people. So a combination of luck and wanting to be as good as I can be has probably got me in the position I am in now.”

What does he believe are the key essentials to being a coach of a national rugby side?
“You have to have a good knowledge of the game,” Eddie replies. “You have to want to lead which means you put yourself out on a limb. You have got to make decisions and you need to be more worried about doing a good job than anything else, and I think that allows you to cope with the external pressure that certainly comes with a national coaching job.”

In Eddie’s eyes, how can the Japanese rugby team improve their game? “The big thing is developing their style of play. Japan will never play a power game. They are the shortest, lightest team in the world but they’ve also got great speed and great tenacity and some great handling skills, so what they’ve got to do is put a game together that suits their resources.”

“Just being in a different culture is stimulating.”
Eddie has surprisingly strong connections with Japan through his Japanese wife and mother. How does he find coming to Japan? “It is very relaxing because firstly just being in a different culture is stimulating, and secondly there’s no media pressure so I can go out and relax and enjoy myself,” he says.

Eddie met his wife Hiroko when they were teaching at the same school in Sydney. “We started going out as she was about to leave and go back to Japan to live,” he says. “My wife and mother have similar characteristics in that they are both very strong women,” he says with a laugh.

What aspects of Japanese culture would he like to import to Australia? “Onsen – they are one of the most relaxing places you can ever go!” And vice versa? “Quality of life. Australians tend to have a reasonable balance between work and relaxation certainly now compared to 20 years ago. They know how to unwind.”

Is Japan involved in future plans? “At the moment I am committed to coach Australia until the 2007 World Cup then after that I’ll appraise things. But I would like to coach Japan again,” he says.

If so, we’ll be cheering him on from the sidelines!

Interview and Article: Jonathon Walsh

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