Irish Abroad

'Felix has been amazing and has brought so much. The boys absolutely love him'

Irishman Felix Jones is a World Cup winner.

IN AMONGST THE boisterous South Africans singing, downing beers and welcoming Prince Harry into their changing room was a quiet, happy Irishman with a World Cup winner’s medal hanging from his neck.

Felix Jones suffered the pain of coming close to featuring in two World Cups as a player and ultimately missing out on both occasions, only to be on stage as a winner in his first World Cup as a coach.

south-africas-felix-jones-celebrates Felix Jones on the winner's podium with the Boks.

Jones is still just 32 and would likely still be playing but for being forced to retire early in 2015 due to a neck injury. 

He has since launched himself into coaching with the same kind of commitment that made him an Ireland international player, rapidly progressing with Munster and then linking up with Rassie Erasmus and co. just before this World Cup, having opted to leave the southern province.

Being involved in the biggest tournament in the sport was naturally an exciting prospect for Jones but he surely couldn’t have expected it to go quite as perfectly as it did, with the Boks comprehensively outplaying England in Saturday’s final.

“I missed the 2011 World Cup with an injury the week before we flew out and then I missed out on selection in 2015, then retired shortly after,” said Jones in an interview on the Springboks’ YouTube channel back in September.

“It’s mad to think that was only four years ago but I’ve absolutely thrown myself at the challenges over the last couple of years and this will be no different. I’ll just intend to give energy and help out wherever I can.”

Jones linked up with the Boks after the departure of attack consultant Swys de Bruin, but he didn’t take over as attack coach, contrary to popular belief.

His role has mainly been to provide in-depth analysis on opposition players and their defensive structures, although Jones’ job has morphed into covering many other aspects out on the training pitch alongside Erasmus and assistant coach Jacques Nienaber. 

“Rassie has me doing a lot more analysis and giving a hand out on the pitch where I can,” said Jones.

“Things are very settled here as it is, guys know what they’re about and obviously there are a lot of experienced Test players here, so it’s more to give a hand where it’s needed.”

felix-jones-celebrates Jones has had an impact behind the scenes with the Boks. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Jones, by all accounts, was underselling himself with that description, with several big names in the Springboks set-up lauding his impact after the World Cup final on Saturday night.

These Boks spoke of Jones’ high standards impacting on seasoned international players, of his relentless analysis work providing important details, and his boundless passion for the game rubbing off on those around him.

“Felix has been immense,” said back row Francois Louw at International Stadium Yokohama. “He’s really brought an exciting dynamic to our game.

“He was someone who Rassie worked with at Munster and knowing Rassie, having played under him for 15 years, he would only bring someone who could add their side, someone he had a lot of faith in.

“Felix slotted in quite easily, the boys bought into his strategies, his passion, his game plan and he has definitely assisted with our success.”

Scrum-half Faf de Klerk, such a key figure for Erasmus’ side, echoed those words. 

“He has been amazing and has brought so much,” said de Klerk. “We saw all the work he did off the field, doing analysis on the other teams, and he’s a really hard worker.

“The boys absolutely love him. He brought so much, gave us so much confidence and he’s been a great addition to the squad.”

south-africas-felix-jones Jones embraces Fracois Louw after the Boks' win against England.

Montpellier’s Frans Steyn, who claimed his second World Cup winner’s medal against England, was also impressed with what Jones brought on the training pitch and off it, stressing that the Irishman had made a big impact.

“Definitely, especially on attack and some skills stuff, he’s really built that intensity in training, which we sometimes lacked before he came,” said Steyn.

“He definitely had his part. His analysis is awesome, he’s busy the whole day on that computer.”

It will be intriguing to see what happens next for Jones, although Erasmus will be loath to let him go after making repeated efforts to bring him to South Africa before finally getting his man just before the World Cup.

Whether it’s with the Boks or elsewhere, it’s clear that Jones has a bright future in the game.

- Originally published at 01.00 

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