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Cockerill verdict on early days working with just-as-fiery Jones

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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New England assistant coach Richard Cockerill has given a verdict on his first impressions of the experience working under Eddie Jones. Both coaches have developed quite a reputation in the game as fiery characters and it was a surprise development when Jones sought out Cockerill in July to become his team’s new forwards coach amid the Australian’s latest coaching staff revamp.  

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So far, Cockerill has worked with England on the training ground at their two-day mini-camp in late September and over the past fortnight – initially in Jersey last week and this week at Pennyhill Park – leading into this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga. 

The expectation is that becoming an assistant under Jones at Test level will require a huge shift in behaviour for Cockerill, who had been used to calling the shots in recent years at both Leicester and Edinburgh. However, he has reported that he has settled in encouragingly into a job where the plan is he will be still involved for the 2023 World Cup in France.   

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Eddie knows what he wants,” said Cockerill when asked by RugbyPass about his burgeoning relationship with combustible England boss Jones. “He is a very good coach and we are all trying to bring ourselves together and collaborate and be a tight coaching team and develop. I have enjoyed him. He knows exactly what he wants and he leads the group very well.

“Obviously it’s very, very different (from running a club team). I am just throwing myself into it and enjoying it. New coaching group, I know a couple of the players from my time at Leicester but getting to know the players well and just trying to help and be involved as much as possible. I am enjoying it and happy to be back at Twickenham looking forward to the game.”

Saturday’s fixture will be the first time in 22 years that Cockerill will have involvement in a Test level rugby match. The soon-to-be 51-year-old earned the last of his 27 caps as England hooker in a 1999 World Cup match versus Fiji and he can’t wait to familiarise himself again with an England matchday. “Brilliant. I have played for England and this is my first Test as an assistant coach. Looking forward to it. Great to be back at Twickenham. What a wonderful place and just looking forward to helping the team and being involved and making sure we are improving.”

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Cockerill will have his work cut out given how the England pack largely failed to fire in the 2021 Six Nations as their fifth-place finish resulted in Jones shaking up his staff and his playing squad. “We are starting a new process into the 2023 World Cup and we are going to build this pack.

“Lots of people may come in and out of that pack to make it formidable and for us to be able to compete and hopefully dominate world rugby with our forward pack, so that is the idea and we have got some work to do but we are starting that process.  

“He is a fantastic player in how he plays, his actions in the game,” added Cockerill about Tom Curry, the regular flanker who has been chosen at No8 to face the Tongans. “Whether that is in any position across the back row he has a huge effect on the game and the balance of that back row with Courtney (Lawes) and Sam Underhill is a very strong one.”

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