There are some great sports coaches out there - and then there’s Eddie Jones
- Credit: PA
He’s one of the most influential sporting coaches on the planet right now and if I were an England rugby union player, I would follow Eddie Jones to the end of the world.
The 57-year-old Australian has put a smile back on the sport in this country. Not just with his tactical nous but also with his exceptional man-management skills.
I’ve often been of the opinion that sports coaching is as much about managing people as it is ticking all the boxes when it comes to drills, cones, balls and bibs.
Don’t get me wrong, drills, cones, balls and bibs are the foundations of coaching sports like football and rugby. And while there are plenty qualified out there to carry out the aforementioned, there aren’t so many who know how to manage people – a big failing in this country – at work and play.
Thankfully the current England rugby team don’t have that problem and it’s no surprise then they have just been on one of the best-ever Test match rugby union runs in history, last weekend’s defeat to Ireland bringing an end to a run of 18 consecutive victories – equalling an All Blacks record.
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Jones has been front and centre of it all, and he is a sports coach I could listen to all day.
Jones’ latest idea ahead of the British Lions tour this winter is the naming of four captains - one each from the four national teams. For instance, England’s Dylan Hartley, Ireland’s Rory Best, Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw of Scotland.
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Then, after the warm-up games, you pick your skipper – something for Lions Tour head coach Warren Gatland to ponder.
“I would take those four captains and make that the leadership group,” England coach Jones said.
“After those warm-up games, whoever was the leading player I would make captain for the first Test.
“You look at the last Lions tour and Sam Warburton captained the first two and Alun Wyn Jones captained the third, so I think you can separate it.
“It would be different but I would reckon you would get a great result, with those four captains running the team for you and making sure they set the standards on and off the field.”
New Zealander Gatland will name his squad on April 19, and has said whoever is picked as captain would not be guaranteed to play.
That may well be the case – but for me Jones’ ideas really do have legs.
The Lions party will be full of leaders and of course one will emerge above all else.
But putting the likes of Hartley, Best and Wyn Jones together in a pot to find your main man could work.
Leaders in sport on the field of play are still not taken seriously enough for me, certainly by fans.
Far too often we poo poo the skipper saying he isn’t the best player in the team, or conversely we do give the armband to the best player, even though he is far from the person a team would walk through a brick wall for.
At Ipswich Town Football Club, they have a captain who is a great leader – Luke Chambers.
No, he isn’t the best player in the team, but he’s a player I would follow.
And while some fans of the Blues can’t see past the fact Chambers isn’t Messi, I can very much see why Mick McCarthy has him as his skipper.
But back to Jones.
It is not often a coach of his stature is coaching in your own back yard, so to speak.
In the world of football, yes, I like Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, but in my opinion none come close to the likes of Bill Shankly, Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to man management. And in the rugby world and as good as Sir Clive Woodward was, for me Jones is more impressive.
But back to the present and I’m writing this before England’s football clash in Germany tonight.
Only a friendly I know but it will be interesting to see how Gareth Southgate gets on as a man-manager of the senior squad. There is little doubting his coaching credentials and he has a great attitude towards fans and the press.
But managing England and all those huge egos is a massive task.
I think - and hope - he will do okay. He has already shown he is big enough to drop Wayne Rooney and I don’t get the impression he is all pally pally with players like Sven-Goran Eriksson appeared to be.
Different sports, different coaches, different characters.
You have to be someone very, very special to rise to the summit.