"I love the sense of satisfaction that I get when I’ve done a swimming workout or race, and know that I gave my whole being and heart to God in every moment of the swim. It’s the best worship I can offer him."
My life and rugby
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Eddie Jones, London, MacMillan, 2019 ISBN 978-1-5098-5070-9The book was published less than a month after the 2019 World Cup. It is a long book – 423 pages. While the part that is of most interest to most readers is his account of the World Cup, one has to work through 380 pages before getting there.
The book gives away more trade secrets than the average autobiography, for example his admission than he made selection errors for the World Cup Final. His analysis of the selection issues involving Ford/Farrell, Brown/Daly/Watson is very interesting. He also explains in the book his reasons for not picking Cipriani, something Cipriani recently said had never been said to him face to face. But as it is a ghosted autobiography, there is always the question of whether one is reading Jones’ words or the writer’s.
The earlier parts of the book set the scene so that by the time we come to the chapters on coaching England, we have more understanding of the man: “The art of good coaching is turning an idea in your head into reality on the field…the feeling you get nowhere else in life. It’s this intensity, this fear, this hope, this dread, this thrill, all knotted together in your gut... This is what we do, mate”.
Jones was decent player but even then he admits: “I played for the first team and even captained them but I was more fascinated by the challenge of turning the reserves into a better outfit”.
All good teams, he believes, exude confidence. He then discusses the balance between confidence and arrogance, naming Ian Chappell as a leader who got the balance right.
He describes setting up a meeting and not turning up but with video cameras in place or telling the players a bus will pick them up for training at 10.00 am and not sending a bus – in order to observe the reactions and note which players took charge.
He describes a final, early in his career, where his (superior) team lost. The opposing coach (Steve Hansen) told him later: “You played the same way as in our previous game so we knew how to counter it”. Jones writes of the incident: “we would never make the same mistake again in another final. We had allowed the Crusaders to work out exactly how to nullify our attack and because we had no alternative plan we had lost the game”. I couldn’t help wondering if he had made the same mistake again in the World Cup semi and final.
In an unexpected passage in the book he reveals himself as a church-goer: “I also started to go to a church near our home I had never been a practising Christian but I found peace in church. It was not some dramatic conversion but, rather, a place where I reflect and give thanks for my returning health, my family, my work. I began to strongly believe that there is a purpose for all of us in our lives…In Tokyo the church was a ten-minute walk from my home. I went there every Sunday and it was a lovely coincidence that the pastor was a South African. He was a big Afrikaans guy who loved rugby. I think he was pretty pleased that I turned up. I’d always sneak in late and sneak out early. But I went, yes, religiously, every week. I haven’t really found the right place since then. Whenever I’m in a new town now, and I see a church I’ll step inside. It’s very low-key but I’ve retained that gratitude and faith. It’s simply a belief in something higher and greater than all of us”.
A bit long but an excellent read and great insights into the man.