SAPPORO – For England coach Eddie Jones, leading a team at a World Cup in Japan is “very special.”
Buoyed by his side’s 35-3 win against Pool C opponent Tonga at Sapporo Dome on Sunday, an ecstatic Jones showered praise upon his players, his opponents and the tournament host.
“I love rugby and I love this team. So (I’m) pretty lucky. And then coming to Japan, we’re part of this historic World Cup, there’s never going to be anything like this again, and to be part of it you feel pretty special,” the 59-year-old Australian said.
“Our team is really enjoying it. Guys are learning new things every day, so yeah, it’s very special.
“I thought it was a great day for rugby. We’re so appreciative of the Sapporo people and the way they’ve come to the game and engaged with rugby.”
Revered by Japanese rugby fans for coaching the Brave Blossoms to their historic 34-32 win over South Africa in Brighton, England, at the 2015 tournament hosted by England, Jones is firmly focused on raising the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time with his new side.
Though England was slow to assert control over Tonga, the lowest-ranked side in Pool C, Jones has proven he knows how to guide a team to the business end of the tournament.
Before he orchestrated the “Brighton Miracle,” Jones coached Australia to the 2003 World Cup final on home soil, with a last-gasp loss to England coming on the heels of a semifinal dismantling of tournament favorite New Zealand.
Jones was also instrumental in South Africa’s 2007 victory, serving as a technical advisor to Springboks coach Jake White.
Renowned for his grasp on the psychological side of the sport, Jones said a recent pep talk from another master motivator — former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson — may have helped his team maintain composure and grab a bonus-point try at the death against Tonga.
Ferguson spoke of his teams’ ability to score late in games, during the so-called “Fergie Time” critics said his Manchester United squads would be allowed by referees when he was at the helm.
“The message (from Ferguson) was to be patient. That’s what I enjoyed about our team today, there was no sign of panic, we just kept on playing good rugby,” Jones said.