Eddie Jones has pledged to groom a home-grown successor after becoming the first foreign England head coach.
The Australian sounded all the right notes when conducting his first press conference yesterday afternoon, just hours after the Rugby Football Union announced he had agreed a four-year contract which will encompass the next World Cup.
England’s new head coach spoke of harnessing the traditional Red Rose strengths of a powerful set-piece and “bulldog spirit” in defence, but promised to introduce additional layers as part of a “pragmatic” approach, stressing that he would not seek to emulate New Zealand.
He hinted at his disciplinarian streak by declaring his players will face either the “angel or the devil” when his reign officially opens on December 1, talked up the “extreme talent” on these shores and outlined his desire to “build something special” and produce a “winning team that has Twickenham buzzing”.
The 55-year-old also broadly addressed pressing items on the agenda, namely the future of captain Chris Robshaw, who is to be given a “blank sheet”, the identity of his assistants and the inability to select players based overseas.
Stuart Lancaster stepped down nine days ago, paying the ultimate price for England’s World Cup disaster, but his lieutenants Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt have remained in place pending the arrival of his successor.
Jones, who includes spells with Australia, South Africa and Japan on an extensive coaching CV, will meet with each of them next month to assess whether they have a role to play in his management team.
Jones has said that whoever is chosen must be English, with a view to eventually taking over when he steps down after Japan 2019.
“Over a period of time I’ll assess the coaches that are here. I want to speak to them individually and work out what they can offer going forward,” said Jones.
“If they can offer what I want then they can have the job. If they don’t offer that then I’ll look at other options.
“One of the goals is that by the next World Cup there will be a couple of assistant coaches ready to take over as the head coach.
“I see that as a fundamental part of my job. I’m sure we can do that.
“There are good coaches in this country.”
Jones’ vision for the style of play England will adopt during his tenure will have struck a chord with any who wearied of the repeated references made to the All Blacks over the past four years.
“I’ve got an idea of how rugby is played.
“Traditionally the teams that I’ve coached have always had quite good attacks,” said Jones.
“England’s strengths have always been a strong set-piece and have had that bulldog spirit in defence. But then we have to add things to the game.
“I’ll look to see what players are available and then I’ll work out a way to add a ‘plus’ to our game. Rugby is all about being pragmatic.
“You have to create your own unique style of play. I want the players to believe in how England are playing.
“We won’t be copying how the All Blacks play.
“We’ll create our own style and I want the players to believe in that 100 per cent.
“If we get that right, then we’ll have a strong side.
“We want the All Blacks to be watching how England play – that would be nice, wouldn’t it?”
Jones has no issue with the RFU’s rule that overseas players can only be selected in exceptional circumstances, extending Steffon Armitage’s international exile, and skilfully back-tracked when questioned about negative comments he made about Robshaw’s ability as an openside during the World Cup.
“I wasn’t the coach of England then, I was a newspaper columnist,” said Jones.
“I was being a bit naughty. One of the first things I have to do is sit down with Chris and chat to him.
“I’ve watched a couple of his games since the World Cup and as with all the players, he’s starting from zero.
“There’s always an opportunity to change things and he’s in that position.”
Jones recently questioned the sense of the English system whereby players are contracted to clubs and not the union, but yesterday he invoked co-operation as a means to achieve shared goals.
“We have a good relationship with clubs and we want to make that relationship better,” he said.
“Everyone wants England to do well.
“For the national team to do well, we need the Premiership clubs to play good rugby.”
Jones’ appointment has caused a stir the southern hemisphere, coming as it does hot on the heels of his appointment as head coach of the Cape Town-based Stormers in Super Rugby.
“When I signed for the Stormers, I had no idea the England job would become available,” said Jones, who only signed with the South African franchise last week.
“I don’t like to let people down, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I had to take.
“I don’t feel good about what I did with the Stormers, but at the same time I’m excited about this opportunity.”