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Eddie Jones sheds light on working with Beauden Barrett at Suntory

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by ShootingFootball/Pablo Morano/MB Media/Getty Images)

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England boss Eddie Jones has given an insight into his stint last April working as a consultant at Japanese club Suntory Goliath where All Blacks out-half Beauden Barrett was spending his sabbatical away from the club game in New Zealand. Jones was heavily criticised for his extra-curricular work, especially as this particular trip happened shortly after the derisory fifth-place finish by England in the Six Nations.

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That poor performance left the RFU to conduct an in-depth review of the reasons for failure and the sight of Jones popping up in Japan working alongside Barrett rankled in the same week that the Six Nations review was published. 

Ex-England coach Clive Woodard was especially livid with Jones, claiming in a scathing Daily Mail column: “His coaching role in Japan makes English rugby look RIDICULOUS… he should be 100 per cent focused on the job and can afford absolutely zero distractions.” 

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Jones has now revisited the controversy seven months later, touching on the issue in his latest book, Leadership: Lessons from my life in rugby, which is being serialised this week in The Telegraph. “I love rugby and I love coaching. And so I am going to take any opportunity I get to practise coaching in my spare time,” insisted Jones in his intriguing book written in conjunction with Donald McRae.

“I love going back to Suntory in Japan and I love the ten-day spells I have to refresh myself by doing nothing else but practise my coaching with a group of players who are always eager to work and to learn. I learn even more from them at these practice sessions – especially when the chance arises to work with Beauden Barrett.

“A Bob Dwyer phrase still rings in my head today. He said: ‘The best coaches in the world are the best players.’ He meant that if you want to become a better coach, learn from the best players. Every time I talk to a leading player, I learn more from them than they learn from me… In England, there has been much criticism of me coaching Suntory, and working with Beauden.

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“But for me the best thing is that Beauden, one of the world’s great rugby players, is comfortable enough in himself, as I am in myself, to talk about the game so openly. We are not trying to take anything away from each other. We’re trying to help each other and to just share our love of the game. Winning matters hugely, but I want the game of rugby to grow and to be truly great.

“Some coaches and leaders prefer to run their lives in a more secretive way. But I have found that if you are open and you are sharing then, generally, you get more back than you give. I wouldn’t have it any other way because, to me, it’s stimulating and refreshing and rewarding.

“When working with Beauden, I have learnt more about his humility and the way he keeps working at his game. He has twice been the World Rugby’s player of the year but, with Suntory, which is supposedly meant to be an easy gig for him, he comes out every morning for training with the vim and enthusiasm of an 18-year-old. 

“One week, even when there was no game on the weekend and he had a crooked neck and had to wear a medical bib, Beauden was at it with so much purpose and intent. He loves practising and training and playing, and I savour that undying passion that surges through him.

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“I have spoken about Beauden to my players in England. Over here, considering the length of the season and the environment, some players tend to go through the motions in training. But you need to find a way to retain that boyish love and enthusiasm for the game.”

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