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'He will be much in demand, particularly if he's a World Cup winner'

Felix Jones has put himself in the best position to soak up a wealth of coaching knowledge.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AS A TEAM, Ireland’s interest in this Rugby World Cup is dead almost a fortnight, but interest lives on to the final weekend in Japan thanks to one highly-rated young coach.

Felix Jones departed Munster at the end of last season and he surely could not have dreamed he would get a first-hand view behind the curtain of the sport’s pinnacle before the year was even out.

The untimely departure on health grounds of former attack coach Swys de Bruin forced Rassie Erasmus to work fast to fill a big gap in his coaching ticket.

And having recognised Jones’ coaching acumen at close quarters with Munster, Erasmus brought the former fullback in as defence consultant knowing that his attention to detail would add value to the Springboks’ setup.

While the Seapoint clubman has been understandably reluctant to put his head above the parapet for interview since joining Erasmus’ ticket, preferring to keep the head down and the shoulder firmly to the wheel, The42 Rugby Weekly podcast this week spoke about Jones’ journey to the World Cup final.  And Murray Kinsella is looking forward to a time when the Dubliner can bring his own rugby philosophy to a team.

Gavan Casey: Would you have noticed (attention to detail) in him as a player, or would it have been known when he was a player that he was keeping his eye on the minutiae and the finer details, looking to improve himself by working probably more so tactically and analytically than physically?

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

Murray Kinsella: Yeah, absolutely. He was well-known as a nerd when he was playing as well, all his team-mates used to slag him.

“Obviously he had athletic talent and he was quick and sharp and his acceleration was a strength but he probably would say himself he got through on pure work ethic and ability and desire to work hard. He was always doing extra analysis, looking at the technical details of his game, and he put a lot of thought into that where some players probably don’t… he was very thoughtful with it and people like Joe Schmidt obviously saw that potential in him and obviously Axel as well who brought him in to the Munster fold.”

Kinsella adds: “I’ve spoken to people in Seapoint before, his home club in Dublin where it all started, and actually he played dual status all the way up to U20 level.

“He was really loyal to the club even though he was under pressure to go to one of the top AIL teams but they all say from the very start they felt he had the potential to be a coach, he had that thought process about the game, he was considering how things work together, why things had panned out a certain way, and that was his personality even outside rugby as well.”

However, there has not been universal approval of Jones’ move to aid South Africa in their hour of World Cup need. Joe Schmidt did not disguise his displeasure in August, believing then that it was an ‘awkward’ challenge for Ireland if they had met the ‘Boks at the quarter-final stage. In some quarters, arrows have been sent Jones’ way with the critiques ranging from his impact on South Africa’s attack – which is not his remit – to questioning whether he makes any impact at all.

“One thing we should mention just in terms of him with the Springboks,” says Kinsella, “I absolutely despise the begrudgery towards him that I’ve seen from quite a lot of people.

“I know I shouldn’t judge off Twitter but people are really getting stuck into him from what I can see. He’s not the attack coach, that’s the thing we should we should mention.

“He does analysis on opposition individual players and defensive structures and feeds that back to Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, so essentially doing a very specific kind of analysis role. Rassie Erasmus mentioned that he was really influential in the Wales week and in the Italy week in particular because he knows those players from having worked with Munster for several years. He knew quite a lot of those guys and he was able to add a lot of detail in that sense.

felix-jones Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He’s not deciding what they do in attack, and that wasn’t even the case really with Munster when Erasmus was in charge and then Johann van Graan. He’s the guy putting in to place those plans from the head coaches. Obviously the Munster attack didn’t fire on a couple of occasions and everyone takes responsibility for that, but I think it is very exciting for a 32-year-old who is still learning the ropes really in this game and up to a year or two ago wasn’t even sure if he was going to be a career coach, he put his Masters in Sports Exercise Performance Psychology on hold to get into this, but it’s really exciting for an Irish coach that young to be involved in this, the biggest occasion in the game, and I think it will be really fascinating to see what happens next for him.

“Obviously he’s got a massive work ethic and I think he will be much in demand, particularly if he’s a World Cup winner, and then it will be really interesting to see his own philosophy on the game and what comes out in that regard.

“I remember talking to Jason Holland about him – ‘Dutchy’ Holland who was a cult hero in Munster as a centre, and he’s now with the Hurricanes in New Zealand — and he’s been a bit of a sounding board for Jones, and he said it will be interesting to see when he gets his own team. Because his philosophy on the game, I think, would be a little bit different to what someone like Erasmus believes should be focused on.

“While he can obviously fit in and impress a guy of Rassie Erasmus’ stature and Jacques Nienaber, those guys know their game, and he’s obviously learning about those styles of play, he’s getting all that experience and that will hopefully then be brought into whatever role he does next.”

Read more>>> Irishman Felix Jones will be involved in the World Cup final at the age of 32

It’s Rugby World Cup final week! On the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey and Sean Farrell to preview Saturday’s showdown between England and South Africa.


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