Eddie Jones Japan
Japan coach Eddie Jones will be back in the red-and-white hoops of the national team. Image by AP PHOTO
  • rugby union

Eddie Jones out to salvage reputation back in Japan

Ian Chadband December 14, 2023

Tarnished beyond recognition, Eddie Jones’s reputation as a rugby coaching guru can now perhaps only be resurrected in the country where they still remember him as a miracle worker.

A year and one week since being sacked as England coach, beginning a calamitous soap opera which left him derided all the way from Tasmania to Twickenham, the 63-year-old must prove back in Japan he still has something left to offer the global game.

But after being announced as the Brave Blossoms’ coach for a second time on Wednesday, it will be no easy task for Jones to regain respect from the rugby world after being widely perceived to have left the Wallabies in the lurch while constantly denying any links to the Japan job.

Eddie Jones's best day
 Eddie Jones’s finest hour was as Japan coach when they beat South Africa in the 2015 World Cup. Image by AP PHOTO 

Inevitably, news of his appointment 45 days after quitting as Australia’s coach was met with a torrent of outrage, indignation and condemnation on social media    

Former England player Andy Goode led the charge on X, tweeting: “Absolutely never spoken to them maaaate! Nek minnit Eddie Jones gets the Japan job! A man you can never trust!!”

Jones’s performances with both England and Australia since 2019, featuring his sacking by the RFU last December and followed by the Wallabies’ historic failure to reach the quarters in France, has left questions over whether he’s mislaid his once sure touch for good.

But if there’s anywhere left on Planet Rugby where Jones isn’t going to get the pantomime boos heard throughout the World Cup – and even on his last coaching appointment with the Barbarians in Cardiff last month – it’s surely in Japan, a country where he has family roots and total respect.

Jones, who’ll begin his job on January 1 and whose first match is set to be against his former charges England in Tokyo in June, has remained close friends with Japanese RFU president Masato Tsuchida throughout his recent travails.

And just as Rugby Australia was happy to sign him up amid his later troubles with England, he and Tsuchida have remained staunch allies ever since Jones’s first spell in the job between 2012 and 2015, which culminated with ‘the miracle of Brighton’ as the Blossoms beat South Africa at the World Cup.

It still resonates as one of the great sporting shocks of all-time, with Tsuchida even noting Jones’s major influence on the development of Japanese rugby when he came on board as JRFU boss last June. 

Eddie Jones
 Eddie Jones missed out on the World Cup in the final with England the last time he was in Japan. Image by AP PHOTO 

Jones was no shoo-in for the Japan role, but even though South African Frans Ludeke had his backers after leading Kubota Spears to the national club title, the Australian’s standing as the man who led England to the final of the 2019 World Cup in Yokohama remained impeccable. 

And there’s a theory that, despite the turmoil that’s engulfed him this past year, his return to Japan could prove a nice fit, with Jones expected to be given the opportunity by Tsuchida to enjoy the sort of control over centralised development of the game there in a way he felt he never did in Australia.

And after the heady excitement of the 2019 World Cup on home soil, where the Brave Blossoms reached the quarter-finals, 2023 was a big let-down with their elimination in the group stages. 

So the national team needs a reset – and it really does also look as if Jones’s rock-bottom stock can only head in one direction.