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Eddie Jones & Roy Hodgson: article in FT 29th June 2016

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Eddie Jones and Roy Hodgson by Derek Wyatt 

Eddie Jones is a leader of men with a Ph.D in strategy. Roy Hodgson is not. One is a field-marshal the other is a sergeant major. The former coaches the England rugby team whilst the latter manages the England soccer side.  

Jones is having an incredible run with eight wins in a row including a Grand Slam and a winning 2-0 in a best of three test series in Australia. Hodgson looks to have lost his way after three games in the current UEFA championships in France. Lady Luck has smiled on him because to qualify for the quarter finals they now only have to beat lowly Iceland on Monday evening.   

Whilst Jones has had substantial success in world cups with Australia, South Africa and Japan, Hodgson had some success when Switzerland qualified for the FIFA world cup in 1994 but had a wretched time when England failed to reach the last 16 in 2014. At the time he said the side was good enough to win the tournament. 

How is it that Eddie Jones has turned round a failed team? After all, England was booted out of the rugby World Cup last October where they were the hosts. And, why suddenly has Hodgson began to tinker with his young side in France making six changes for the game against Slovakia?  

In the last game in the group stages Rugby World Cup last year England lost to Wales 25-28 at Twickenham and unbelievably failed to qualify. Yet twelve of the twenty three players who played in that losing squad have played in the winning side in Australia over the past two weeks.

How can players be apparently pretty bloody awful one year but world class the next?   It is down to two men. Ian Ritchie, the CEO, of England Rugby went out to find the best coach in the world armed with a small deposit from the Bank of England. Jones was his pick and though headed for club rugby in South Africa was persuaded to take the challenge, a challenge he did not really need. 

Eddie Jones’s reputation was secured when Japan with the last move of a compelling opening match against South Africa in RWC15 created a seismic earthquake in rugby terms by beating a country which had previously won two world cups. It led to television news and weather presenters across the networks in Japan to wear the nation’s rugby jersey throughout the tournament.

In such a conservative country this was unparalleled. It was timely as Japan’s plans for hosting the next rugby world cup were in stormy waters but no longer. Jones is a hero there which is kind of wonderful as his wife is Japanese. 

Jones does not coach by the book. He is not looking over his shoulder at what the media might say. In fact he relishes the press conferences because he is comfortable in his own skin. But it seems to me what makes him stand out is he can look inside a player's soul and tells them what they are thinking, how they can upgrade their skill sets and what they can possibly achieve. These people are rare in life.  

He has set the toughest regime. He has made players turn up for training at 6.30am; he has created a climate of mutual respect not of fear or failure and the players have manned up. There were other neat touches like bringing back Dylan Hartley as captain, re-invigorating Robshaw and Haskell, protecting Ford, introducing the already immense talent of Maro Itoje and selecting on form. It all seems rather obvious now but he did it.  

Of Hodgson, whilst he has had a long, long career in soccer as a manager, we hardly know him. He has a quiet, reflective persona and is well respected. He is a decent man but he is not a winner. He has done well with sides like Fulham and West Bromwich Albion but he has never won a premier league or a European title. It is still not clear how he intends to win the UEFA Cup over the next few weeks and my sense is his time is up.


Of course the article was pulled because of the Brexit result which was a shame but on Monday morning the Comment editor came back and we re-wrote it not knowing Iceland would beat England that evening and so we re-wrote bit so it again on Tuesday afternoon and it made the paper on Wednesday morning.


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