The irrepressible Eddie Jones has promised he’ll be back in a rugby job “very shortly” as he left the scene of his latest losing coaching role in Cardiff.
Jones couldn’t resist the teasing response to AAP as he scooted away from the Principality Stadium on Saturday night (Sunday AEDT), having just led the Barbarians to a 49-26 defeat in a one-off coaching gig, just five days after quitting the Australia job.
Asked whether the rugby world would see him back in another job, perhaps another national team role again, following the Barbarians’ thumping defeat by Wales, the 63-year-old responded on the run: “A hundred per cent, hundred per cent … very shortly, very shortly.”
Pressed further, he just scuttled off to the team coach, grinning.
Jones’s name has been consistently linked with a role with Japanese rugby, where he was once the national team coach, but he again denied earlier in the week that he had had any job interviews or offers.
But at the end of a dramatic week which started with him walking away from Australia and ended with him reuniting with 10 Wallaby Barbarians in another defeat by Wales, Jones did have some brief parting words of encouragement for the team he’d left behind.
There were eight of his World Cup squad in the Baa Baas team, and they largely all performed with distinction in Saturday’s non-cap international in a 49-26 defeat, reminding Jones of the potential he was walking away from.
Had it been a bittersweet day, working again with them? “No, it’s a different thing, different role, different relationship, but you just want to see them do well,” said Jones.
“And they did very well. I think Tom Hooper showed he’s going to be a real player of the future. And (Angus) Bell’s gonna be a player, he’ll be a world XV player.”
His praise echoed the theme of his pre-match observations that Australian rugby will rise again.
“They’ll be alright, mate,” he said of the future Wallabies. “Those players are going to be much better because they’ve had experience, they’ve had a tough World Cup campaign and sometimes you need that.
“It’s given them a bit more resilience, a bit more work ethic, and there’s good young players there, so I think they’ll be fine, mate.”
And would they be competitive when the British and Irish Lions come visiting in 2025?
“It’ll be huge, be huge. Australia’s a proud sporting nation and when they’re not doing well, everything’s bad. Not dissimilar to England.
“But a little bit success and it’ll go up – and the Lions is a huge series. Because it’s like ‘Home and Away’, isn’t it? A little soap opera in its own right.”
A bit like his own endlessly fascinating career, Jones might have added.
Erasmus to return as head coach
Rassie Erasmus is to return as coach of South Africa for the foreseeable future, he confirmed to local media on Monday, reprising the position he held when the side lifted the World Cup in 2019.
Jacques Nienaber guided the Springboks to their second successive World Cup triumph in October, but had announced in April that he would be taking a new role at Irish side Leinster after the tournament in France.
Assistant coach Felix Jones, meanwhile, will be joining Steve Borthwick’s England set-up.
Besides lifting the World Cup as coach in 2019, Erasmus is also South Africa’s director of rugby. His influence, however, was never far from the team as the Springboks claimed a record fourth World Cup title, clinched with a 12-11 victory over New Zealand in the Oct 28 final.
South African newspaper Rapport said the former flanker has confirmed he will take over Nienaber’s duties with a view to challenging for an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup triumph in 2027, when two-time champions Australia will stage the showpiece competition.
He also discussed his concerns over depth at lock and hooker for 2027 when South Africa go for a potential three-peat.
Centurion lock Eben Etzebeth, who has been the Boks’ enforcer over the past decade, will turn 36 during the 2027 tournament, while the Munster duo of Jean Kleyn (34 in 2027) and R.G. Snyman (32) will both also be in their 30s, as will Franco Mostert (36).
“Eben is so athletic, but I don’t know if he still has a World Cup in him. We may also be a bit thin at hooker,” said the 50-year-old Erasmus.
Bongi Mbonambi, who started the 2019 and 2023 World Cup finals, will be 36, while Malcolm Marx will be 33.
Erasmus namechecked Stormers wunderkind Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Sharks playmaker Curwin Bosch as players who could offer competition at fly-half going forward, along with Manie Libbok.
While Erasmus, who is revered in South Africa for his innovation, tactical acumen and ability to get the best out of the players at his disposal, is expected to solve these conundrums, he has also courted controversy at times.
His video critique of Australian referee Nic Berry after losing the first Test in the 2021 series against the British & Irish Lions earned him a ban from World Rugby.
Erasmus has also come under fire for social media posts criticising opponents.
What is not in question, however, is his ability to galvanise the Springboks on and off the pitch when it matters most.
“Where Rassie is very good is looking at the cause of the problem and saying, ‘this is what we need to fix’,” former assistant coach Matt Proudfoot told Sport24.
“He is driven by that process; he never sleeps looking for that advantage.
“Rassie has a unique ability to see what is at the core of the matter, what is the one thing that is going to make a difference.”
Assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids, as well as scrum coach Daan Human, are expected to remain in their roles along with head of athletic performance Andy Edwards.
Wales legend joins Crusaders
Wales legend Leigh Halfpenny has signed a one-year deal with Super Rugby giants the Crusaders.
Halfpenny announced his international retirement in October and played his last game for Wales in the uncapped 49-26 victory against Barbarians.
The 34-year-old stated his desire to carry on playing club rugby.
“I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to join one of the best clubs in the world and I can’t wait to meet everyone,” said Halfpenny.
“I’ve always watched Super Rugby and the Crusaders are the team I’ve always followed.
“I’ve always loved the time I’ve spent in New Zealand on tour. It’s a passionate rugby nation and I’ve always been made to feel very much at home there.
“My family and I are very excited about the move.”
Halfpenny made his international debut in 2008 and scored 801 points for Wales in 101 games, while he also played four Tests for the British and Irish Lions.
He was named Lions player of the series in 2013, helping the tourists to a 2-1 series victory in Australia.