Eddie Jones wants the man who broke his heart in the 2003 World Cup final to help him turn England into the dominant force in world rugby. Jones, who took over as England’s head coach last month, has spoken to Jonny Wilkinson, whose extra-time drop goal in Sydney 13 years ago took England to victory against Jones’s Australia, about a kicking coaching role with the country for which he won 91 caps.
“I had a coffee with him last weekend,” Jones said. “After we had finished, he went and had a kicking session, even though he has finished playing. Why was he one of the best in the world? Because he did that. That is the difference. No one tells him to do it, because he is retired, but he still wants to be a good kicker.
“How many of our players do that now is the key going forward. We cannot tell them to do it as coaches, only encourage. We would like to get Jonny involved but he is a private person. We will have some more chats, and I saw him shopping at Waitrose with a beanie over his head.”
Jones is not seeking an attack coach for the foreseeable future. He will fill that role, with Steve Borthwick, forwards, and Paul Gustard, defence, his only other full-time coaches as he looks to keep messages to the players clear and concise. “One of the things I heard about the World Cup from a number of sources is there wasn’t great clarity in the way the players were coached,” he said.
“There were a fair few coaches, so there were a lot of different messages. That’s something I’m conscious about. If the players have a problem with attack, there’s only one coach to go to: me. If I need assistance doing that, then I’ll get someone in.”
Jones has met his predecessor, Stuart Lancaster. “He is a real gentleman, with some really good thoughts on English rugby. He really cares. He gave me some insight into some of the players. You take those things into consideration.”
Jones said he was not concerned by Mike Brown’s post-World Cup assertion that there were trust issues in the England dressing room. “I don’t have a problem; I trust them all and they have got to trust me. I am not going to go back into old grievances between the players. They can sort that out. I’ll send them down the pub, give them £10 each and they can sort it out.”
Jones said he was still undecided about the captaincy, despite reports that he was going to invest it in the hooker Dylan Hartley, who missed out on the World Cup because of a ban. “I’ve got ideas. When I get the squad together I will speak to a couple of them face to face again, and make the final decision. Then him and I are going to work so closely together.
“He is the coach of the team; he will be making decisions on the field. We will probably be working more closely together than I will be with the other coaches.”