The Eddie Jones fiasco is over. At least, in Australian rugby, for now.
Three months after denying he had any association with the Japan Rugby Football Union about taking over from Jamie Joseph as Japan’s next head coach, Jones was confirmed as the Brave Blossoms coach on Wednesday.
Less than a week after interviewing strongly in front of the JFRU in Tokyo, the JRFU announced his appointment via media release on Wednesday night.
Jones will appear at a media conference at 5.30pm local time on Thursday (7.30pm AEDT).
South Africa’s Frans Ludeke, who took Kubota Spears to their maiden Japanese League One title earlier this year, was runner-up.
The appointment has left many Wallabies who played under Jones at the World Cup angry.
Jones’ return is likely to divide opinion with Japan, too.
While he oversaw arguably rugby’s greatest upset during the 2015 World Cup, as Japan took down South Africa, his squad was on the point of a mutiny following years of being worked to the bone.
Still today, he has many detractors within Japanese rugby.
One person, however, who was always in his camp was new JRFU president Masato Tsuchida, who will appear alongside Jones at his media conference.
Jones and Tsuchida have known each other for almost three decades through their association at Suntory, the Japanese heavyweights the Australian first worked at and has always held a consultancy role with.
Insiders, including Japanese media outlets in recent days, have long believed Jones always had a standing invitation to return as Japan’s head coach.
Nonetheless, it’s Jones’ third international job in 12 months.
After two underwhelming years with England, Jones was sacked by the Rugby Football Union in early December 2022 after seven years in charge.
His early dismissal led to Rugby Australia pouncing on his services, as they feared him signing with a different national union following the 2023 World Cup.
It saw RA chairman Hamish McLennan, with the support of the board, sack Dave Rennie and sign Jones to a five-year deal.
Nine months after taking on the role he resigned, citing RA’s inability to deliver on promises, including an inability to introduce reform measures and fail to get across the line a private equity deal that would bring in much-needed funds to power the game forward.
He finished with a 22 per cent win record in his second tenure in charge of the Wallabies, having led the side to just two wins from nine Tests.
His resignation came after five weeks of denials that he had spoken to the JFRU a fortnight out from the World Cup starting about replacing Joseph.
The Zoom interview occurred in Paris on August 25, two days before the Wallabies’ final Test before the World Cup.
Jones denied any link to the story, saying: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, mate.”
He added: “I really take umbrage at people questioning my commitment as Australia coach. I’ve been working non-stop since I’ve come in and apologise for the results. But to question my commitment to the job I think is a bit red hot.”
Jones moved to join his family in Japan after officially farewelling RA on November 25.
The disastrous year was the catalyst behind McLennan’s ousting last month, where the RA board faced pressure to make a change after six member unions called on the leadership change.
McLennan met with Jones before he departed Australian shores.
All along, McLennan and RA chief executive Phil Waugh took Jones at his word.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Waugh seemingly questioned Jones’ integrity as he looked to move past the calamitous year.
“As I said back at the time, I took Eddie on his word,” Waugh said.
“We want to be a game of integrity and a team of integrity, and we took Eddie on his word.”
Jones’ return to the Brave Blossoms is likely to make Waugh’s dealings with the JFRU interesting, particularly in light of the two national unions signing a “landmark” Memorandum of Understanding until the end of 2029 earlier this year.
It will see Australia A play Japan in 2024, before the Wallabies play the Brave Blossoms in 2025.
Jones’ deal should see him lead the Brave Blossoms to Australia in 2027 for the Rugby World Cup.