November 2, 2019: 8pm in Yokohoma Stadium. The time, the date, the location of the World Cup final has been seared into Eddie Jones‘ mind since he became England head coach in November 2015.
Jones has picked 129 players in squads and handed out 975 caps to 72 of them across 44 Tests. Now the World Cup campaign is about to begin, Sportsmail discovers what the Eddie era has really been like from those at the heart of it.
Eddie Jones will be hoping to raise a smile as England head coach come November 2, 2019
2015 AND ALL THAT…
Having lost to Wales and Australia at the 2015 World Cup, England became the first host nation to be knocked out of their own tournament in the pool stage and coach Stuart Lancaster quit.
Jamie George: It was a dark time. No one wants to be involved in going out of their home World Cup.
Stuart Lancaster was sacked as England head coach after their dismal 2015 Rugby World Cup
2016 THE EDDIE EFFECT
Eddie Jones might have just signed for the Stormers in South Africa, but the RFU flashed the cash to make the Aussie England’s first foreign coach. He had a lot on his plate ahead of the 2016 Six Nations.
Joe Launchbury: Eddie coming in was a breath of fresh air. New voice, new ideas.
George: It immediately felt like a new era of English rugby. I’d crossed paths with him when he coached Saracens between 2007 and 2009. I was still at school then, but Eddie took a few sessions with the academy. Owen Farrell and Jackson Wray were involved, too. Eddie came down to do one session and sent Jackson out once! It was an offloading drill. He said: ‘The next ball to go on the floor, that person is leaving.’ Jackson was the unlucky bloke!
In November 2015, England named Jones as their first-ever foreign head coach
In Eddie’s first meeting in January 2016, everything was different. We were in the same team-room space at Pennyhill Park but it had been re-decorated. That’s the good thing about Eddie’s regime – we train in Surrey, Teddington, Bristol, Oxford, Brighton and Portugal. He tries to move us around so we don’t get comfortable.
He said he didn’t understand how we were so bad – we were eighth in the world – but he turned it around into a huge positive and said: ‘In four years’ time we’ll be going to Japan and we are going to win the World Cup. A lot has to happen in that time – you’ve just got to trust me.’
Eddie is the best salesman I’ve ever met.
Ben Youngs: I just remember being in awe of him. Straight away he captivated the group. I felt: ‘Wow. This is what we’re talking about.’ I have never felt so backed by a coach.
Maro Itoje: My first conversation with him was over the phone. He called me to tell me things he liked, things to work on to get to the top. I was a bit nervous because it was my first Six Nations. The one thing he doesn’t do is tip-toe around the truth! I find that helpful. We’re punctual. If a meeting is at 3.15pm, there won’t be anyone rocking up at 3.15pm – everyone will make sure they are at least five minutes early.
George: I don’t think anyone in English rugby had been involved in training like that. The intensity, the emphasis on things like how quickly you got up off the floor, how many accelerations you were making, and analysing GPS data after a session. Everyone looks at those numbers for games, but I’d never seen them after training. Now we look at it every time.
From the off he made his presence felt – with his style of preparation new to the England setup
Launchbury: The aim is getting used to playing rugby under fatigue and being able to execute. There’s a clock on the side of the field that constantly changes to time everything.
The hard work paid off, with England winning the Six Nations Grand Slam for the first time since 2003.
George: It was just relief. I knew how much it meant to everyone to be involved in that and how much they deserved it. It was a conscious thing not to celebrate too soon in that Six Nations. The expression is, ‘You’ve celebrated like you’ve won the World Cup’. You should only do that when you have won the World Cup. Don’t go mad too early. The best thing about the Grand Slam was that it got the public behind us again. We had let a lot of people down.
Jones labelled the trip to Australia in 2016 ‘The Bodyline Tour’, knowing references to the famous cricket series would rile his countrymen. England said they would win 3-0 – and did.
England’s first Six Nations campaign under Jones saw them victorious as Grand Slam winners
Itoje: He’s a lot more personable with us than he is with the media. He’s very funny and has a laugh with us when appropriate… unless we annoy him. Fortunately I haven’t got him that angry yet!
George: Eddie never warns us when he’s going to come out with something in the media. I quite enjoy it! You never know what’s going to happen!
Youngs: We approached Australia differently. As English people, you tend to be more reserved and wouldn’t publicly say, ‘We’re going to win’. Eddie would win The Apprentice hands down! With how Eddie is, the more you hear it the more you believe it. So we did go to Australia fully expecting to win.
Eddie can watch a game at 10am and by 11.30am he has a clear idea of what a team’s strengths and weaknesses are and how to beat them. I’ve never seen it like he does it. He’s then able to put it to us players in such a way that you have utter belief. You think, ‘Yeah!’ That’s awesome.
In the summer of 2016, England then went to Australia and whitewashed them 3-0 in the series
2017 RECORDS, LIONS AND PUMAS
Having beaten South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia again, England were 14 matches unbeaten – four from equalling New Zealand’s world record. Players built bonds as well as a victorious run.
George: I never knew about the record of 18 consecutive wins. We were having an amazing time, playing great rugby, but the overriding feeling was that we were nowhere near where we needed to be. That was coming from Eddie and us. That’s why we didn’t look at record-hunting. Instead, we focused on getting better.
Eddie is big on the social side. He put a big emphasis on a few of us putting on social events. Me and Danny Care started it off. Danny is not here now, but Elliot Daly has tried to step into that role. We brought in a guy once called Kev Orkian. He came third in Britain’s Got Talent and does this Armenian sketch with a piano and it’s genius.
Then we got The Beast – Mark Labbett – from The Chase for a quiz night. Dan Cole and Joe Marler did well at that, and Coley won. He’s a wise head Coley – he doesn’t let on but he’s very clever!
Coffee has been a big part of things, too. Manu Tuilagi, me and Daly have a coffee war going on – we’ve brought special machines to Japan.
England hooker Jamie George has revealed he led the role of creating squad social events
Billy Vunipola: That’s something with England where we’ve always been lacking. We try to build bridges where we should be brutally honest with each other so we can be the best version of ourselves that we bring to our clubs.
Youngs: It’s like anyone going into their office. You’ve got to invest in people, and they have to invest in you. I could go up to someone every day and go, “Hey, mate. You all right?”
That’s not an investment. That’s acknowledging him because you think it’s the right thing to do. There is a conscious effort by everyone to sit with someone different every time we meet, room with someone different every week. I could just room with Coley every time, but that would be an easy decision. I’ve known him for years, he’s married to my cousin, so I know him really well!
England took their run to 18 unbeaten and won the 2017 Six Nations despite losing to Ireland in Dublin. With 17 players involved in the Lions tour, the England trip to Argentina was decidedly different. England won 2-0.
England’s unbeaten run under Jones ended with a defeat at Ireland in the 2017 Six Nations
Launchbury: I enjoyed seeing that next wave of quality with the guys away from the Lions.
Sam Underhill and Tom Curry made their debuts out there. You saw early on how good they were. For Tom to come in pretty much straight from school was brilliant. He seemed so comfortable and his body seemed ready to play Test rugby. I don’t think I was quite so ready at 18!
Eddie said he wanted to find a couple of players from that tour and he did. The selection process has always been an evolving beast, it’s not been a closed shop.
Joe Cokanasiga: Before Argentina, Eddie called me, and said: ‘Be ready’. I went with a hamstring injury. Eddie wanted me to experience the whole culture of the team, how it’s run. I needed to do stuff out of the box. I’ve got talent but if you don’t work hard you won’t get anywhere.
Sam Underhill (2nd R) and Tom Curry (R) made their England debuts in the tour of Argentina
2018 RED ROSE WILTING?
Argentina, Australia and Samoa were seen off in the autumn of 2017, but then came the wobble – 2018 was the year of injuries, criticism, a changing of the guard and five consecutive Test defeats.
George: We were getting a few things wrong on the field. When you’re winning, it’s very difficult to stop, but also when you’re losing too. It’s a vicious cycle.
Youngs: We started the Six Nations winning the first two games, then lost to Scotland, France and Ireland. Those were invaluable.
Centre Huw Jones dives over to score as Scotland beat England in the 2018 Six Nations
George: If we’d gone 27 games unbeaten and thought we were world-beaters, as soon as we come up against a challenge in Japan we might not be ready for it. There was an understanding it was never as good or as bad as people were saying on the outside.
The end of the South Africa tour broke that streak – a win in the Cape Town rain.
Launchbury: We were playing in a rugby country where no one wants you to win, were 2-0 down in the series and had lost a few games in a row, so that was a massive win. That was a great memory, sitting on the pitch at the end of a long season with the knowledge that we’d taken a famous win.
There’s no team on the face of the earth that has consistently won and never lost. You are going to experience those things. We spoke a lot about noting that those victories were not in vain. We used them to improve.
England ended a miserable five-game losing streak with a win in South Africa in June 2018
Youngs: That gave us the springboard into the autumn.
That autumn a depleted England restored some pride by beating the Springboks, Japan and Australia, but lost by a point to the All Blacks. The squad was changing fast – stalwarts Dylan Hartley, Care, Chris Robshaw, James Haskell and Mike Brown were all out for various reasons.
Launchbury: As long as I play for England, I don’t think I will feel safe in the shirt. I don’t think for one second any of us feel comfortable. Eddie’s phrase ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ is something for us to thrive on.
Joe Cokanasiga was on the scoresheet as England beat Australia at Twickenham last Autumn
2019 LOOKING EAST
Belief grew again. Particularly after dismantling the team of 2018 – Ireland – in Dublin. England did not win the Six Nations, but with the World Cup looming, England were expectant.
Youngs: Every member of the team knew we were going to win in Dublin. That infectious belief is something we’ve never had in the England teams I’ve been part of.
We won the Grand Slam in 2016 and went on a victorious tour to Australia on the way to an 18-match unbeaten run and won the Six Nations title again in 2017. I look at that and think we are three times the team we were then. I love being here. It’s the closest team I’ve ever been a part of.
George: I feel a much better player having been through the highs and lows. Now we’re in an amazing position to do something special in Japan. The rugby we played in 2015 is a completely different game to what we play now and we are in an amazing position to go and win it.
Henry Slade dives over to score as England memorably won 32-20 in their 2019 Six Nations tie
This content was originally published here.