Thu, Oct 18, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Jones ready for another crack at England


In plotting to beat England in a Rugby World Cup final after narrowly failing in 2003, Eddie Jones says he's not out for revenge.

Jones was the coach of Australia four years ago when, as defending champions and tournament hosts, they lost the final to England in extra time on Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal. He was fired as Wallabies coach after a miserable 2005, and accepted an invitation from South Africa coach Jake White to be a technical adviser for the Springboks only three months ago.

Jones was branded a traitor in Australia and South Africa's administrators wouldn't let him wear a Springboks team blazer, but now he and White couldn't be happier with their alliance going into Saturday's final at Stade de France.

Jones was the only member of the Springboks squad put in front of the world's press on Tuesday, and he played down talk of revenge for 2003.

"England were probably the better side and deserved to win," he said. "This year South Africa is potentially the best team, and if we play well we'll get the result we want. Gee, it won't make up for 2003 but I might throw that silver medal away."

Grateful to White for the chance to work at international level again after a failed season as the Queensland Reds Super 14 coach, Jones didn't think he'd added much to the coaching team of White and assistants Gert Smal and Allister Coetzee. If anything, he believed he'd been a useful ear for White, knowing the stresses he was under as coach.

White, however, regarded Jones as more valuable than that, and has been full of praise for his former rival, even linking Australia's World Cup failure with letting him go.

"Eddie Jones, he's one of the most clever men of rugby," White said. "He's a student of the game, he's got an unbelievable work ethic, you can see what sort of added value he has."

"I know what Eddie means to us because he's been in the same final. He coached against us, he coached against England, he knows most of the players," White said.

White said being able to talk issues over with Jones and get his feedback was invaluable.

"It's not just what he does on the field, or tactically or technically what he adds," he said. "He can be a real sounding board for everybody that's involved in this team, from the captain right through to the medical staff."

While Jones was sure South Africa will win its second World Cup, his confidence was scarred by the presence of Wilkinson, whose return from a pre-tournament ankle injury has coincided with England's unimaginable turnaround in the last month.

"Jonny's still there, so he's a bit of a worry," Jones said.

"He's a different sort of player, not as dominant as he was in 2003, but he gives England enormous confidence. You can see guys play better around him when he's out there because he has won a World Cup, he still kicks reasonably well, he still kicks a field goal here and there, and he's tough," Jones said.

Jones said Wilkinson was also a very good tackler, as he proved against Australia and France, which forced opposition attacks to push wider looking for gaps.

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