Rugby Union

Eddie Jones denies talking to Japan about coaching role before World Cup

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Eddie Jones admitted he “felt terrible” about Australia’s World Cup failure but insisted he had no guilt about the process that saw him return as Japan boss after stepping down from his post with the Wallabies.

At a press conference on Thursday, the 63-year-old faced more questions about how and when he first made contact with the Japanese Rugby Football Union about replacing Jamie Joseph, having repeatedly denied reports about contact with the JRFU that first emerged during the World Cup.

Former England coach Jones said he had not interviewed for the job until this month, and that a Zoom call with recruiters on August 25, before the start of the World Cup, was to discuss his previous experience in the Japan job between 2012 and 2015 to help them frame their search.

“I didn’t do an interview before the World Cup,” the Australian said. “I was asked by the recruitment agency to share my experiences with them. The first interview I had with Japan was in December and that’s the only interview I’ve had.”

Jones returned to the Australia job in January this year, signing a contract that was due to continue through to the 2027 World Cup. But, after a poor World Cup in which Australia were knocked out in the first round for the first time in their history, he used a break clause to leave for Japan.

“With Australia I signed for five years and we had a plan to take them to two World Cups,” Jones said. “There were things that needed to happen in Australia to change the system we had. I agreed with the chairman on a plan on what we were going to do to do that, they needed finances to change the system.

“After one year there was a break in my contract with Australia Rugby on whether they could fulfil those commitments. I felt without them being able to fulfil those commitments we wouldn’t be able to develop talent to the fullest extent and I decided then I wanted to move on.”

Asked if he needed to apologise to Australia fans, Jones said: “I gave everything I could for that short period of time and it wasn’t good enough…I wish Australia all the best.

“I feel terrible about the results in Australia, I wanted to go back and change Australia so I feel terrible. I don’t feel any guilt at all about this process…

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I can’t control their opinion. All I can control is what I did and it sits well with me. I don’t have a problem with it. If people feel like that, that’s their judgement, I can’t control that.”

Jones will take charge of a Japan team that also failed to get out of the first round in France, finishing third in Pool D, and said his goal is to overhaul the structure of the Japanese game to best play to their strengths, getting universities and club teams all pulling in the same direction.

“I’m honoured and privileged and looking forward to the task of creating a Japan side that has real identity and a point of difference,” said Jones, whose mother and wife are Japanese. “I think any great team in any sport, it doesn’t matter what jersey they play in, you can clearly see the team they are.”

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