Eddie Jones hilarious team talks lead to Grand Slam Glory
How Jones' hilarious team talks fuelled Grand Slam glory
SPORT has become big business, deadly serious, obsessed with the marginal gains of science. Yet it turns out England's Grand Slam glory was fuelled as much by titters as it was tactics.
Jonathan Joseph has lifted the lid on the team talks that had the England squad in stitches thanks to the stand-up routine of their new coach, Eddie Jones.
The Australian welcomed his new charges by labeling them a "disgrace" for failing to make it out of the group stages of their own World Cup. Then he got personal. They were warned not to leave any leftovers near Kieran Brookes, who has since been dropped from the squad for this summer's tour of Australia, while his fellow hooker Ben Youngs was also taunted for his weight. Newcomer Maro Itoje was teased for being without blemish, while Jones recommended Luke Cowan-Dickie and Guinness should never appear in the same room.
By the end, the players were rolling in the aisles. "It's serious, serious, serious and then boom - he cracks a funny joke," said Joseph, the Bath centre. "He attacked James Haskell, Kieran Brookes - it was just about his weight, obviously. 'Don't have leftovers near Kieran because he'll eat them.' It was constant, week after week. Kieran takes it well though. Ben Youngs got a bit as well. He tells Luke not to drink too much.
"It was good because it was the first meeting and no one knew what to expect, but we all came out laughing and joking which was quite refreshing. Everyone was pretty happy, and it set down a marker for the Six Nations. "You just try not to mess up. If you drop the ball in front of him you know he's coming at you for two weeks. He is funny, genuinely funny."
That humour immediately set Jones apart from the dry approach of his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, and was one of the key changes that turned England from World Cup flops to Six Nations Grand Slammers.
"I don't think there was much wrong before, Eddie has just given us an opportunity to enjoy each other's company a lot more," added Joseph. "It is a massive positive for us going forward."
First up, going forward is Wales on Sunday, and a big chance for Joseph in particular. He retained his place beside Owen Farrell through the Six Nations despite the calls for Wasps centre Elliot Daly to replace him, but while Henry Slade is fit again, Manu Tuilagi will discover today whether he will play again this season after the hamstring injury he suffered in Saturday's Premiership play-off defeat to Saracens.
With Farrell and Slade engaged in Saturday's Premiership final, Joseph will get a chance to prove he should retain his place in the starting line-up on the tour of Australia that follows, ahead of the challenges of Ollie Devoto and Luther Burrell. "There's a lot of players Eddie has got at his disposal now," he said. "There's no point in getting carried away with what other people are doing. You've just got to play your own game and if the coach picks you he picks you. There's competition everywhere, it's part and parcel of the game and it brings out the best in you."
The best of Joseph has rarely been seen in Bath colours during a season of perpetual struggle. Their campaign done and dusted and coach Mike Ford sacked.Joseph intends to repay Jones for his faith with performances against Wales and Australia, England's World Cup tormenters, that finally buries the memory of that failure.
"There's more to come from the team and me personally," he insisted. "My club form wasn't going well but I'm glad Eddie had a lot of faith in me and played me and hopefully I didn't let him down. "We're a young team, we're growing and we can only get better and hopefully we'll see some of that this summer."