Eddie Jones joked on Monday about joining Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta in a coaching forum which is ‘like Alcoholics Anonymous’, as he revealed that England will seek to emulate the fast-starting Premier League leaders in their autumn series.
After naming a 36-man squad notable for the absence of experienced Exeter centre Henry Slade, the Australian in charge of the national team set his stall out for the last November campaign of his tenure; with fixtures against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa. He revealed that he has formed a bond with Arteta, the Arsenal manager, and has been sufficiently impressed by his work to take inspiration from the north London football club’s effective formula.
‘He came into the camp last autumn and we had a really good chat,’ said Jones, when asked about the Spaniard. ‘He’s a super bright young coach. Because of Covid, you have these Zoom conferences now. So I’ve got an Australian coaching conference Zoom, a world coaching Zoom and this group.
England rugby head coach Eddie Jones revealed he is looking to emulate Arsenal’s fast starts
Jones has been involved in a coaching forum along with Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
‘It’s like Alcoholics Anonymous! We all go in and share our problems and everyone tells you what they think. It’s fantastic.
‘We’ve got Mikel, Matt LaFleur – the Green Bay Packers head coach, George Karl – who’s an NBA hall of famer and Mike Dunlap – who was Michael Jordan’s head coach when he bought the Hornets.
‘We’ve got all these guys in the same room. It’ll be fantastic when we all get together over a beer. Then it will be Alcoholics Anonymous!
‘We just share stories and each other’s problems and try and come up with ideas of how we can take coaching forward. He (Arteta) is a brilliant young guy.’
Asked what he has learned from Arsenal’s performances which could be relevant to England’s own approach in their forthcoming Tests, Jones added: ‘A fast start. How fast they get out of the blocks. Every game; they’re at it.
‘They play with energy, they know how they want to play; they put the opposition on the back foot.
Jones also spoke about engaging properly with referees to avoid personality clashes
‘In rugby – and we’ve been good at it at times and not so good at other times – 75 per cent of Test matches are won by the team who score the first try. I don’t know what the percentage would be in the Premier League for teams who score the first goal, but I’d imagine it would be high.’
Another priority objective for England this autumn will be to engage well with the referees, in an attempt to avoid personality clashes which could harm their prospects in close contests. Jones will be warning his players that he expects them to communication calmly. Shouting and screaming at officials will not be tolerated, as part of this Red Rose charm offensive.
‘One of the things that is really coming through is how important social reciprocity is,’ said Jones. ‘The referees are under so much pressure now. They’ve got a failed referee in the grandstand – that’s the TMO. They are usually blokes who have not been able to cut the mustard and they are telling the one on the field who cuts the mustard what to do.
Jones says England ‘lose a huge percentage of their fight’ if they don’t have Owen Farrell
‘So they’re under pressure the whole time. Everyone is listening. So it is about your ability to have a good conversation and find out how you can help the referee have a good game – because if the referee has a good game, generally it is a good game. That is the reality.
‘You have to have good relationships with him (the referee). We need to have one of our leaders establish a good relationship with him. We can’t have players yelling and screaming at the referee.’
This outlook was regarded as an indication that Courtney Lawes – known as a calm, laid-back figure – will retain the captaincy ahead of Owen Farrell. Jones confirmed that Lawes is recovering from his recent head injury, saying: ‘Everything looks positive.’ But he went on to endorse – yet again – Farrell’s combative, aggressive nature; suggesting that he is under-valued in his own country.
‘If we don’t have an Owen then we lose a huge percentage of our fight,’ said the head coach. ‘He is one of the most committed rugby players I’ve ever seen. Owen is the third-highest points-scorer in rugby history. He’s one of the all-time greats of the game.
‘He’s won every trophy apart from the Rugby World Cup and he’s got a silver medal, which isn’t bad. Sometimes I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. When you’re a tough, gritty player like Owen is, it’s harder to be liked, isn’t it?’
Henry Slade’s absence from the squad was a shock with his recent injury counting against him
The absence of Slade from the squad announced on Monday was a major shock, but Jones offered a matter-of-fact explanation, saying: ‘He’s come back from a serious shoulder injury and we want him to keep playing – and keep playing well for Exeter. He’s starting to find his form and we want him to show some good consistent form.
‘Players shouldn’t expect to come back, should they? They’ve got to deserve their selection. He’s a good player, Henry, and there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the squad. We just want to see him have some consistent form for his club.’
Jones was unable to clarify whether his compatriot and defence coach, Anthony Seibold, will be remaining with England after the autumn series – amid reports Down Under that he is returning to rugby league there with Manly Sea Eagles. And Jones confirmed that England are awaiting guidance from World Rugby about whether Exeter’s Namibia-born prop Patrick Schickerling is eligible to be selected, amid doubts about his qualification. He was involved in the Australia tour but didn’t play.