Eddie Jones: James Cole reflects on an 'extraordinary' week with England boss
Sky Sports News reporter James Cole reflects on an "extraordinary" week with Eddie Jones ahead of England’s Six Nations clash with Ireland.
By James Cole, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 22/02/20 7:21am
As a journalist, you are never quite sure what you are going to get from Eddie Jones. And that has never been truer than this week.
On a good day, he can give you a brilliant, quirky - albeit sometimes provocative - soundbite; he will answer any question from Manchester City to the Harlem Globetrotters. But catch him on a bad day and he will give you nothing - or worse - rip you to pieces on live television!
I have been interviewing him for four years and I still never know which of the Joneses I will be keeping up with.
This week at England's training base was, though, even by his standards, extraordinary.
He took it upon himself to face the media for three consecutive days. What's more, he took away the rugby writers' exclusive huddle - choosing instead to do everything in the form of a top-table press conference.
And it was not just the writers' exclusivity he took away. Jones also took away their quotes. He said virtually nothing for two days; replying with three or four-word answers even to the softest, mildest of questions.
That was until Thursday when an ill-judged attempt at a self-deprecating joke badly backfired. "You must be thinking about someone else," he told a reporter. "Maybe another half-Asian person... Maybe we all look the same." He has since apologised.
On to Friday. Once more unto the breach…except this time Jones was back to his charming old self.
Confused? You are not alone.
When I asked him if he had a problem with the media - or something that had been reported - he said no. He said that he "loved" the media - even if I am not quite sure if that is true! When I asked him if he was happy in his job, he said yes, pointing to the fact that he has not stopped smiling over the past three days.
His explanation for his "straight bat" - I'd say shoulder arms - approach: he wanted to limit the media "noise" around his team this week, reduce the distractions.
Ahead of the opening game of the Six Nations against France in Paris, Jones promised "brutal physicality". The French coaches took exception to his violent language. They then used the words as motivation and a young, resurgent French team triumphed.
The following week he described Scotland as a "niggly" team - a reference to the fracas in the Murrayfield tunnel two years earlier. Jones was again criticised.
And when young England flanker Lewis Ludlam said the players were preparing for "war" and a "battle" he too was heavily criticised on social media for his use of language.
I do not know for sure exactly why Jones battened down the hatches this week, why he chose to give the media nothing, why he has been so brilliantly respectful of Ireland, their coach, their captain and their scrummaging technique, which Wales claim is illegal.
But I suspect he may have been making a point: If you jump on what we say, we will say nothing.
It is a recurring tension in the modern sports media. We bemoan the boring, predictable soundbites we often hear from professional sportspeople - those worried about rocking the boat or causing offence.
But when we get a good quote, one that really builds the occasion, the passion, the theatre we are too quick to use it against the individual.
Sport is, after all, theatre.