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Eddie the entertainer enjoys honeymoon with Six Nations favourites England

The former Australia and Japan coach is excited about playing Owen Farrell and George Ford together.

THIS WAS A performance rather than a press conference. Eddie Jones is in town and everyone is a little giddy about it.

Jones is a man who has helped South Africa to World Cup success, brought the Boks their darkest day on the pitch with the biggest World Cup shock ever, led the Brumbies to a Super Rugby title, won a Tri Nations with Australia and steered the Wallabies into a World Cup final. Oh, and he discovered the enduringly brilliant George Smith too.

Eddie Jones Jones was in good humour at yesterday's Six Nations launch. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The record – there are milestones missing above – speaks for itself and on top of all of that, Jones is renowned as an entertaining interviewee, a man who provides journalists with quote after quote of gold.

The 55-year-old has been parachuted in to save England after their World Cup humiliation on home soil. Yesterday’s Six Nations launch in London provided us with our first chance to see the Randwick man in action and he did not disappoint.

The dialogue between the new England boss and the gathered journalists was, unsurprisingly, utterly positive. He’s barely been in the job a wet week and so far all is rosy in the English garden.

“At moment we are on honeymoon aren’t we?” said Jones with the same wide smile that adorned his every answer. “Everything is nice, everyone is nice to each other.

But if you’ve been married longer than 20 years, you know a honeymoon doesn’t last. You’ve got to try and make your marriage work. And we’ll make this marriage work.”

There’s so much joking and laughing with Jones that it can be a little difficult to cut to the essence of what he is actually saying.

Even a question about how Jones wants his England team to play the game brings about a complicated explanation.

“It’s all about mindset,” said Jones. “Every time you attack there is a risk involved. If you want to play like the old Stoke City [the Premier League club previously known for long-ball tactics] then that is the safest way to play, isn’t it?

“Just stick the ball in the air, chase hard and get everyone to clap. If you’re not a strong side you can guarantee a close game. There’s a fascinating book on soccer… have you read it?”

Which one Eddie?

Dylan Hartley and Eddie Jones Dylan Hartley was Jones' choice as England captain. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Well, it’s all about the data on soccer,” he continued. “It shows that teams which have done really well by playing high balls are teams that minimise the amount of time the ball is in play.

“It makes sense; minimise the time the ball is in play and it minimises the time the other team have to score. If you are kicking the ball relentlessly down the other end, then it minimises the number of opportunities the other team will have to score.

“Rugby is exactly the same. Every time you run with the ball or pass the ball you are taking a greater risk than if you kick the ball.

“It is about developing the mindset so that you have the belief and confidence to run with the ball and look after it properly. That’s what we want in our team. We don’t want to be reckless but we don’t want to be like an old Stoke City either.”

A roundabout means to saying he wants England to be balanced. Minutes later, as his new captain Dylan Hartley stumbles over a difficult question about England’s apparently waning forward power, Jones bursts in, “Soccernomics, that’s the book!”

The first test of Jones’ honeymoon period comes with the Calcutta Cup against Scotland on the opening weekend of the Six Nations. After their World Cup exploits, Jones suggests that Vern Cotter’s men “have to carry that pressure of favouritism,” although that idea is met with a few shakes of the head.

Earlier this week, Jones trimmed his extended training squad down to the 23 that will face Scotland in two weekends’ time. The biggest talking point has been the omission of Wasps’ in-form outside centre Elliot Daly, with Bath’s Jonathan Joseph preferred for a simple reason.

“13 at Murrayfield, there will be very few opportunities – that’s going to be the reality of the game,” said Jones. “Unless it is completely different weather than what we expect, then we need a guy that has a bit of experience. That’s why he got the nod.”

Jones spoke with excitement about his plan to start Owen Farrell, the Saracens out-half, in the 12 shirt outside Bath man George Ford for the clash with Scotland.


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EnglandÕs George Ford and Owen Farrell 29/11//2014 Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“Firstly, those two guys have been enormously impressive,” said Jones. “The initiative they have shown in driving how we want to attack from various phases has been really pleasing, as good as I have seen from players around the world. They have taken on that responsibility.

“Owen is a tough player, he is one of our toughest nuts without a doubt. There is no reason why he can’t play 12 successfully. He can carry, he can kick and he can pass. He can do everything a 12 needs to do. He loves defence and hitting people; it’s not a bad attribute to have at 12.”

Jones has drafted in the aforementioned George Smith to aid England’s breakdown work, while the inclusion of Jonny Wilkinson to work with the team’s kickers is another nice touch.

“It’s just another resource,” explained Jones, “although I don’t think he’ll help Dylan with his throwing!

“It’s great to have great players around to support the players in their development and Jonny is definitely that. He wants to show them he’s still better than them, so they have a competitive session which is great.”

If Jones’ England can back up the impression the head coach is making off the pitch, then the other five nations had better be ready for an onslaught.

It’s all smiles and laughs for now but if England fail to live up to their Six Nations favouritism, Jones knows all too well that this marriage will face an early test of its strength.

“I’m a good shopper at Waitrose,” said Jones. “People always come up and say, ‘Good luck. Hope it goes well.’ It’s been really positive, but if we lose at Murrayfield I might have to go to a different Waitrose.”

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Murray Kinsella

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