Rathbone: Lights, camera, Eddie

Clyde Rathbone
by Clyde Rathbone

From the moment England’s young squad arrived in Australia local rugby fans have enjoyed front row seats to the Eddie Jones show.

Jones has orchestrated such an emphatic turnaround of the Roses that it’s hard to believe a mere nine months has passed since the Wallabies dismantled England’s World Cup.

Eddie Jones was my coach when I debuted for the Wallabies back in 2004.

I was terrified of him.

The diminutive former high school principal was a far cry from the physically imposing Afrikaans speaking rugby coaches I grew up with in South Africa, but Eddie was uniquely intimidating.

It may have been his complete obsession with rugby coaching or his borderline psychotic work ethic, but Eddie seemed to bring an uncomfortable intensity to nearly every situation.

His reputation certainly preceded him. Long before I met Eddie I heard dozens of stories about how he had berated grown men to tears, or torn strips off some hapless staffer, it seemed just about everyone had an Eddie story, and none of them made me especially excited by the prospect of working under him.

Eddie's reputation precedes him. Photo: Getty ImagesDespite my apprehension it soon became clear that any failings Eddie had as a man manager where largely offset by his technical expertise.

He always painted an exquisitely clear picture of how he wanted us to play, and never, ever, seemed even remotely unprepared for what the opposition were going to throw at us.

Eddie’s game plans were always fiercely meticulous and the clarity with which he conveyed them to his players imbued us with tremendous confidence.

There’s also no doubt that Eddie will be revelling in the media attention he’s enjoyed on this tour. Just how much the media antics of coaches has any bearing on the outcome of matches is open to question, but it’s hard to imagine that Eddie’s command of local scribes is hurting England’s ambitions.

Eddie seems to understand that narrative shapes perception, and by casting Michael Cheika as his whipping boy appears to have set a self fulfilling prophesy in motion.

Notwithstanding a wonderful start to the first test the Wallabies have been horribly out of sorts. For all the talk of run-meters racked up in Melbourne our attack has been uncharacteristically predictable.

The return of Matt Toomua provides the much needed width in attack that is a hallmark of backlines Stephen Larkham presides over.

A three-nil series whitewash on home soil is grotesque at the best of times, against the old enemy it is unthinkable. Rarely has a ‘dead rubber’ seemed so wildly alive.