It’s Japan to Leeds, as Eddie Jones pitches in for next generation

NLYP Jones.       England  rugby union coach Eddie Jones with youngsters at The Grammar School at Leeds where he officially opened their new artificial pitch.
NLYP Jones. England rugby union coach Eddie Jones with youngsters at The Grammar School at Leeds where he officially opened their new artificial pitch.
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Barely three weeks after leading England in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, Eddie Jones was coaching schoolkids on a damp, wet evening in Leeds last night.

The scene was certainly a far cry from those lofty events in Japan but the Red Rose coach is always on the look-out for the next big talent – and never forgets the importance of grassroots rugby.

Eddie Jones.

Eddie Jones.

Jones got his hands on the ball and offered tips to 60 young players at The Grammar School at Leeds as he came along to cut the ribbon on the official opening of their new artificial pitch.

The 59-year-old walked from group to group to cast his discerning eye over the Under-10s and Under-11s as well as, no doubt, pass on some valuable advice to their coaches who came from three different clubs in the city.

Roundhegians, Leodiensian and West Park Leeds all had kids there showcasing their skills along with pupils from GSAL junior school.

The visit from Jones – whose England side fell short in the final against South Africa – was organised by Premier Rugby chairman Ian Ritchie.

Youngsters playing rugby on their new artificial pitch.

Youngsters playing rugby on their new artificial pitch.

An alumnus of the school, Ritchie, of course, appointed the Australian as national team coach in 2015 when still RFU chief executive.

He watched on from afar as Jones – one of the most recognisable faces in world rugby – went to work with his latest eager-to-impress players.

They were supposed to then head indoors to the warmth of the school hall to conduct a Q&A session but Jones is not one to stand on ceremony. As the children crowded around him on the pitch at the end of the training session, he was the one who actually started questioning them.

Old habits die hard. Jones then invited some questions with one youngster asking who was his favourite player of all-time?

“George Smith,” came that familiar Australian accent.

“He was brilliant. And he always wanted the ball and to be involved.

“That’s the biggest part of training; every time you train, you want to be involved.”

There was time for a team picture in front of the posts (once some football posts had been hastily removed) and a few obligatory selfies with this special training night guest.

Once they headed inside for that private Q&A, hopefully one of those kids also asked Jones if he was going to stay on for the 2023 World Cup and complete that unfinished business.

Having overcome the Wallabies and eviscerated reigning champions New Zealand before falling at the last hurdle in Japan, there is plenty of backing for him to do so.

Indeed, Mike Tindall, the 2003 World Cup-winning centre who also started his career as a kid on Yorkshire school pitches, yesterday gave him his vote and, after this guest appearance, no doubt plenty of the children here will certainly think he is the main man, too.

“When you look at where we were four years ago and where we are now, you’d say he’s done a great job,” World Cup winner Tindall, who is the patron of the Rugby For Heroes charity, said.

“He’s lost 10 games out of 51 which is pretty outstanding for an international coach and most of those defeats came in a slump when we had a lot of injuries and didn’t have what we would see as our first team out.

“If the players still like him and want to learn from him then of course he’s the right man for the job. I think he pushes them hard, he demands excellence from them and that’s what Clive (Woodward) did with us.”

“You can see from performances like the Ireland Six Nations game, the Ireland warm-up game, the Wales at home warm-up game and obviously New Zealand and Australia, that when they get it right they are a phenomenal rugby team.”