Eddie Jones is introducing the art of mime to England training sessions in an effort to improve his squad’s non-verbal communication and adjust to player welfare initiatives that limit contact training.
Rather than watching Charlie Chaplin classics, Jones has borrowed the idea of mime training – which bans players and coaches from talking – from the NBA, having consulted with basketball and NFL coaches. The head coach sees the practice as a means of keeping sessions fresh and lightening the load on his squad.
Jones revealed he briefly experimented with mime training at England’s previous camp and will employ the non-contact method again as he takes his squad to Jersey next week for a five-day get-together before the autumn internationals against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.
“We have been looking at a little bit of the stuff in America,” said Jones, who listed the Milwaukee Bucks’ Mike Dunlap, and Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers as coaches he has spoken to. “I was talking to the NFL and NBA and the amount of training time is being cut all the time, particularly in the NBA. One of the things they do is mime training where they are not allowed to talk so we are going to have a go at doing that to see if we can accelerate the learning of the players.
“You can’t talk, you show them what they have to do. We experimented a bit at the last camp, they have got to do it without talking. It is eye contact, being able to understand each other’s body language. It was pretty good, we have got to test it a bit more. Nothing is instant.
“Every sport at the moment is being modified in the physical load you can do, maybe cricket even, like fast bowlers don’t bowl as much do they? Baseball pitchers don’t pitch as much. There’s greater welfare care in every sport and so the training, the amount of physical training you can do is being lessened. So you’ve got to find out other ways of teaching the game.”
In light of a recent documentary featuring the World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and comments from his former captain Dylan Hartley on the need for more to be done to help retired players, Jones acknowledged the need to constantly review the sport’s safety measures, such as restrictions on contact training.
“World Rugby has been very diligent, they have made the game safer and we have got to continue to keep making the game safer,” he added. “I don’t think there is a sport in the world that doesn’t want to be safe. Rugby, because of the nature of the sport, is a physical collision game. We need to keep looking at how we make it safer, how we keep looking after the players better.”
Jones also addressed the forthcoming autumn internationals and spoke of the need to strike a balance between achieving results against four nations England could conceivably face at next year’s World Cup – Japan and Argentina are in the same pool as Jones’s side – and keeping things up his sleeve.
“The big thing for me is to make sure tactically we keep moving but we don’t show our hand,” he said. “It is like a contradiction now, you want to keep moving the team forward but you don’t want to show the opposition what you are doing.
“There’s a bit of a cloak and dagger now, 12 months out, in terms of how much you want to show. And that means winning some games and being good in games to keep the players thinking you’re on the right track.
“If you are too cloak and dagger and you don’t have good results, the players think: What’s going on here?’ And it’s hard to get them to believe. But if you show them too much, you give the opposition too much. So it’s this balancing act at the moment. So it’s the most fun time for coaching.”