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A Farrell win would be perfect response to Jones snub


Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is capable of saying anything when he meets the media this week because Eddie Jones is quite capable of doing anything.

"I fired Andy Farrell and I could have hired him too," he could say, should he opt to deviate from his occasional personal attacks on the opposition.

And it would be a statement which would not necessarily be emitted for shock value but more aptly to sum up his gregarious character.

For it is quite true to say that, effectively, Jones' prerogative cost Farrell his job in the past and his proposition could also later have restored it.

Jones could have also added that he not only worked with Farrell the coach but also with Farrell the player; he could embellish the tale still further by reminding us that he coached Farrell's son, too. He still does.

You see, with Eddie Jones, very few of the major personalities in the global game have managed to elude some element of interaction with one of the most captivating characters the sport has seen in the professional age.

His has been quite the most stunning coaching career, one which has taken him literally to the summit of the rugby world on three different occasions - and each time his route to the top has seemed almost as improbable as his subsequent struggles have appeared implausible.

Only a few months after being lauded as the Messiah of English rugby, Jones has reverted to being just a very naughty boy, and the country's love/hate relationship with the irascible Aussie has lurched once more.

A week which began with a testy, tempered TV interview might have seen Jones prefer to avoid the media gaze; instead, he has sought to wallow in it. If one includes the match responsibilities, he will do press duties for five straight days this week, veering from internet to print, radio to TV.

If you're talking about mood swings and match trends, keeping up with the Jones is proving to be harder than ever before.

Involved in losing a World Cup final in 2003, winning one in 2007 and then losing another in 2019, he may only have been able to plant a flag on that summit just once; and even then not one emblazoned with his native Australian flag, but his influence has been keenly felt wherever he has laid his hat.

His Japan's breathless takedown of South Africa in 2015 witnessed a rugby Goliath impersonate David for one afternoon; the implications would ripple far beyond Brighton.

It would usher Jones into the English hotseat.

A week later, England would lose to Wales in Twickenham, a peculiar late lineout call from their captain, Chris Robshaw, reflecting the uncertainty and indecision that would soon rip the entire team apart.

England's exit exposed frequent fissures within the coaching team, from selection to tactics; ironically, subsequent unofficial information suggested Farrell wanted to deviate from the Lancaster/Catt expansive game plan, ironic given Ireland's encouraging start to 2020.

After a brief review of the failure came the findings, and the RFU's first task was to remove Stuart Lancaster - an event which itself would have ramifications across the Irish Sea - but it was not yet certain that his assistants, Farrell, Mike Catt or Graham Rowntree, would naturally follow.

Farrell says now he was always going to do so but, even though many may think differently, rugby coaching is a paid job like any other and a man who once rose before the sun to work as a joiner for £30 a week was not going to walk meekly away from a huge salary.

"The new head coach will want to have a look at who he has as assistants and how that will work," said English Union boss Ian Ritchie after Lancaster was bombed.

"But as far as the moment is concerned, the three assistants are under contract and will continue with their jobs."

Everyone knew it was merely a holding operation; when Jones was unveiled to much fan-fare - mostly emanating from Jones himself - he at once hinted not at evolution but revolution.

"If they can offer what I want then they can have the job, if they don't then I'll look at other options," he said.

The last clause was more pertinent than the one which preceded it and soon the three assistants were on their way.

Ironically, while at Saracens, Jones had re-signed Farrell as a player when father and son were in the same squad.

This time was different. Jones had the final say, not his bosses; he was anxious about the father/son dynamic which, purportedly, had caused dissension in the World Cup when the midfield selections were being determined.

Farrell was snapped up by the IRFU just three weeks later and all three men would wind up in Ireland; two of them, Farrell and Catt, will be in direct opposition to Jones at Twickenham this Sunday.

Such is the unpredictable nature of Jones, even this scenario might have been completely altered; two years ago following Ireland's Grand Slam success, he sought to re-engage Farrell, but the Wiganer promptly rebuffed all entreaties, even then he was being ear-marked as Joe Schmidt's successor.

"I was keen for Andy to rejoin the set-up," Jones wrote in his autobiography of one of his career's many U-turns.

"He was seriously interested, and I think we would have got the deal over the line, but Andy knew he would replace Joe Schmidt as head coach after the 2019 World Cup.

"He was keen on that challenge and so, understandably, chose to remain with Ireland. Whenever we see each other now, Andy and I get on well. His past disappointment as losing his job is no longer an issue."

Farrell was slightly less circumspect this week as he prepares to go toe-to-toe with Jones for the first time as a head coach.

Winning silverware - the Triple Crown is on the line - in Jones' lair, for the second time in three years, would prove the ultimate response.

Belfast Telegraph