Embattled Eddie Jones backed to turn England around by Wallaby great
Former Australia captain George Gregan believes Eddie Jones possesses the leadership qualities required to revive England’s ailing fortunes.
England are preparing for a three-Test series in Australia – their first summer tour in five years – on the back of two dismal Six Nations campaigns.
Experienced coach Jones retained the backing of the Rugby Football Union ahead of the trip to his homeland and is tasked with ensuring his squad peak in time for next year’s World Cup.
Retired scrum-half Gregan, who skippered the Wallabies under the 62-year-old, told the PA news agency: “I loved playing with Eddie, he was a great coach.
“He’s a person who is prepared and has the courage to do things differently – not necessarily follow the norm and whatever the trend is in terms of the way the game’s being played, that takes courage.
“But it also takes a lot of convincing of the group and the people around you to go in that direction, which he does.
“He’s incredibly thorough and meticulous in his planning. What he also does is really empower his team to take ownership of what they do on the field and I think that’s a sign of a really, really good coach, hence he’s had success pretty much everywhere he’s coached.
“Eddie is very good under pressure in terms of identifying what needs to be done and really putting in place a focused plan and getting people to buy into it and working hard towards that.
“It can be a lonely place being a head coach, I think in all sports, it’s not easy.
“He will try to do things a little bit different just to get that little edge and create the best possible environment for his players and coaches to perform. That to me is Eddie in a nutshell.”
England play Tests in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney on successive Saturdays, beginning next weekend.
Following defeat to their great rivals during the pool stage of a wretched home World Cup campaign in 2015, they have been victorious in the last eight clashes with the Wallabies.
That winning streak was sparked by a 3-0 series success on their 2016 tour of Australia shortly after Jones’ appointment.
Gregan does not envisage of repeat of the stunning whitewash this time around.
“I wouldn’t have predicted that in 2016, the Wallabies had been in the World Cup final against the All Blacks, were the form team and then they get beaten 3-0,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a really tight series; I think that series was pretty tight too, except for maybe the last Test match – they were all narrow margins and this could follow in the same suit.
“The margins get smaller and smaller in international sport. I think the series is going to be fiercely contested and I can’t see either England or Australia winning 3-0.”
Gregan captained Jones’ Australia when they suffered last-gasp World Cup final heartbreak at the hands of Jonny Wilkinson and England in Sydney in 2003.
The 49-year-old – the Wallabies’ most-capped player with 139 appearances between 1994 and 2007 – feels the sporting rivalry between the two countries remains as strong as ever.
“England-Australia, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, it could be road cycling, netball, golf, cricket, you name it, there is a rich rivalry there and you want to be on the right side of that,” he said.
“There is always a lot of banter and talk before these types of games and a big build-up and rightly so.
“For us, I’m going back a long time, England were a very, very good team and you always wanted to gauge yourself against them, you wanted to win.
“It’s a rivalry which is always going to be there and long may it continue. We certainly haven’t had the bragging rights for a long time.”
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