Eddie Jones Was Robbed at the World Rugby Awards
He masterminded one of the greatest rugby revivals of recent years. So why didn’t Eddie Jones win coach of the year? Hayden Donnell complains bitterly.
Steve Hansen just won coach of the year at the World Rugby Awards. In 2016, the All Blacks coach set a record for consecutive wins in the modern era, retained the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship, coaxed young talents like Ardie Savea and Anton Lienert-Brown to stardom, and somehow did it all despite exhibiting the emotional range of a plank of wood.
His win was sweet vengeance for last year’s travesty, where he lost to Michael Cheika. It was also completely unjustified and 100% wrong.
Eddie Jones should have won. When the England coach took over last November, he inherited one of the the most miserable bunch of sadsacks in history. His side had just been bundled out in the pool stage of a home World Cup, after being beaten by not one but two of their colonies. Turning that bunch of losers into the clear second-best squad in the world should go down as a rugby miracle for the ages.
Hansen had a much easier job. The All Blacks lost McCaw and Carter at the end of the World Cup. But both were already hollowed out husks of their younger selves; ligaments stitched together with glue and sticky tape. Carter was replaced by the newly crowned World Player of the Year; McCaw by a mixture of the very good Sam Cane, and the incredibly good Savea.
In just about every position, the All Blacks had a bevy of players ready to step up to the international game. Liam Squire. Ryan Crotty. Even Israel Dagg rose out of his Red Bull and sleeping pill-induced haze to produce one of his best years. Just about all Hansen’s reserves would walk into the starting line-ups of any other international side, as evidenced by the astounding play of TJ Perenara after Aaron Smith was ruled out with a bad case of toilet boning.
Jones had to do more with less. Chris Robshaw, who had the gaunt and haunted look of someone who’d long stopped believing in hope, was transformed into a world-beating number 6. Dylan Hartley, who used to turn up half-cut to Monday morning training and still looks like an extra on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, somehow became an inspiring captain.
To add to the degree of difficulty, he had to deal with half his best players being injured. Thanks to the Northern Hemisphere’s 14,327-game season, England has been without Hartley, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, James Haskell, Sam Jones, Anthony Watson, and Maro Itoje at various points this year. Somehow they still got 10 wins from 10 games. That’s a better record for 2016 than Hansen’s, according to an in-depth mathematical analysis from the Rugby Pass data team. Jones executed one of the quickest rebuilds in history.
So why didn’t he win? Because he looks like an evil gremlin? Because his personality is notoriously abrasive and near-certain to get him fired one day? Whatever the reason, it’s not good enough. Jones masterminded one of the great rugby revivals. Gremlin or not, he should have something shiny to show for it.
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