August 14, 2022

“We came from a tee-total culture.”

On Saturday, at Twickenham, Eddie Jones will once again face off against a man that he first showed the coaching ropes to, over a decade ago.

Andy Farrell played under Eddie Jones when he and Steve Borthwick were co-captains at Saracens. When Farrell retired, he became assistant coach under Jones and got a feel for how the game worked from the sidelines.

On House of Rugby [LISTEN from 43:00 below], Sean O’Brien and former England captain Dylan Hartley spoke of how similar camps are under Farrell and Jones.

After three years at Saracens, Eddie Jones moved on to club rugby in Japan before managing Japan up to the 2015 World Cup. While Japan missed out on a quarter final place, like hosts England [with Lancaster and Farrell the main men], their pool stage win over South Africa was seismic.

Jones was offered the England job, not long after, and Dylan Hartley, who Jones made captain in 2016, says camp-life quickly changed.

“Eddie is all for the players. I just think the environment that was created before [under Lancaster] was very much school teacher and student. It was very much like, ‘This is what we’re doing’, ‘This is what you’re going to say at media time’.

“Whereas Eddie sat down and said, ‘This is going to be your team. We’re going to have some non-negotiables on the field, until you guys are good enough to come up with your own stuff. But it’s your team – do what you want with it’.

“There had been little things, over the years, like post-match functions, days off. It was all so rigid. Everyone else was thought of first, instead of the actual team, or the talent. We just pushed back on a few things – can we do this, can we say that, can we wear this? And, all of a sudden, it was like big wins for the boys, as they had come from such a strict regime. The buy-in was brilliant!

“Eddie was so forthcoming with us driving our own environment. When a group of people drive their own environment, this round table, it’s more empowering. Everyone feeds into it, rather than being told what to do the whole time.

“We came from a tee-total culture to Eddie. He literally put beer on the table, around the week.”

Eddie Jones and Andy Farrell pictured at Vicarage Road in 2009, when the Australian was Saracens ‘Technical Advisor’ and Farrell was his assistant. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Farrell took over from Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach in 2020. His first campaign was disrupted by Covid postponements and players missing out due to positive tests. 2021 gave him a clearer run at it, and Ireland started to put wins together, including impressive victories over England and New Zealand.

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When Hartley mentioned how Jones has taken a more relaxed approach to players getting together and sharing a beer or two, during camp, O’Brien chipped in:

“It’s funny you say that. That’s what it is like in the Ireland camp, at the minute. That’s the way it is with Faz.

“It’s an enjoyable place to be when you go in there. It’s not like you’re thinking, ‘I need to do this or that’. You’re not rigid.”

“You can be yourself,” Hartley exclaimed.

“It was a big change for us [in 2016] but, long-term, I can see the benefits now. Players are driving it themselves, now. Hopefully they benefitted from what we put in place.”