The players are never your friends, says England coach Eddie Jones

The 56-year-old denies ruling with an iron rod but admits it is healthy for his charges to have a ‘certain level of discomfort’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 9:01pm

England rugby union coach Eddie Jones has denied he is ruling with an iron rod but insisted keeping one’s distance from the players is key to being a success.

The 56-year-old Australian – who has resurrected England’s fortunes since the abject failure of the 2015 World Cup hosts to get past the first hurdle – told BBC radio there was no harm in making the players feel ill at ease.

That strategy appears to have worked since he replaced Stuart Lancaster as England swept to the Six Nations grand slam and whitewashed World Cup finalists Australia 3-0 on the Wallabies home turf.

“I don’t think they [the players] are frightened but in any high-performance environment you need a certain level of discomfort,” he said.

“As a coach, the players are never your friends.

“You have a great deal of respect for them but you’ve got to have a certain level of emotional distance because you’re in a working situation and half the week you’re telling them you love them, and then there’s some parts of the week you’re telling players they’re not going to play.”

Jones, who secured the job on the back of an impressive World Cup as Japan handler which saw the 2019 hosts sensationally beat two-time world champions South Africa, said if he managed to guide England to World Cup success in three years time he might consider other options.

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Jones has reached the final once before when he was Australia coach but a last second drop goal by Jonny Wilkinson in extra-time saw England snatch victory in 2003.

“I want to win the World Cup but once you’ve won the World Cup I think there’s other projects you could be involved in to make the game better,” said Jones.

“I’m lucky to be involved in a great sport like rugby and having done something with Japan that people thought you couldn’t do, I’d love to do that in another country.

“Who knows – we’ll wait until the end of the World Cup, then we’ll take it from there.”

Jones, whose mother is Japanese, said his immediate goal is for England to go through the year unbeaten.

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They face a busy November schedule with tests against a struggling South Africa – who have lost four of their last five matches – Fiji, Argentina and then Australia to round it off on December 3.

“That [remaining unbeaten all year] is the target,” said Jones.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position to achieve that but that would be the icing on the cake.

“What’s more important is that the players keep growing, the team keeps developing, because ultimately we want to win the World Cup in 2019.”