England v All Blacks: George Gregan and Matt Burke reveal Eddie Jones' big

1 NEWSCoach Eddie Jones said that the haka was as important as the Spice Girls.

There’s the obvious – “Carlos [Spencer] was always going to go long,” Gregan says of the famous intercept pass that cost the All Blacks at the 2003 World Cup. “Carlos was just that sort of player.”

Then there’s the deep – the meticulous, almost obsessive covering of all bases.

England coach Eddie Jones goes deep. Burke says, “He equips you with all the tools and ammunition to get you across the line and get a result.” 

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Gregan and Burke should know. There were part of the Wallabies team of the early 2000s under Jones in Australian rugby’s last golden age.

In 2003, the Wallabies surrendered the Bledisloe Cup after losing 50-21 in Sydney and 21-17 in Sydney but they went into the World Cup semifinal anything but awed.

“We were gutted after the [second Bledisloe] game but we also realised if we play these guys again we’ll make adjustments and we’ll be better and we’ll win,” Gregan says.

“What we learnt from those previous matches are the things you shouldn’t be doing which allows the All Blacks to find their rhythm.”

Eddie Jones at a press conference after the Wallabies had lost the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park in 2003.
PHOTOSPORTEddie Jones at a press conference after the Wallabies had lost the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park in 2003.

By the time the World Cup semifinal rolled around the All Blacks were walking into a trap. Jones had nailed down a gameplan the Wallabies knew would get them home.

“Eddie’s good at instilling those really simple things which a group can get its head around,” Gregan says. “You’re not overthinking it, you’re very confident in delivering what you need to.”

Burke says there is a cost to Jones’ approach – the 3am emails, the relentless search for perfection, the pressure on players to improve. But he sees it as simply part of the deal.

The late Jonah Lomu fends George Gregan during the All Blacks 39-35 win over Australia in Sydney in 2000.
PHOTOSPORTThe late Jonah Lomu fends George Gregan during the All Blacks 39-35 win over Australia in Sydney in 2000.

“Eddie’s got a method to his madness. I’ve been there, absolutely,” Burke says.

“But it comes down to performance and knowledge. If you’ve got the knowledge, you can do whatever you want to do.

“How you take that and how you use that comes down to the player and the individual but there is no doubting that he arms you with enough knowledge to combat anyoneand give you the chance to win a game.”

Matt Burke takes on the All Blacks in Christchurch in 2002.
ANNETTE DEW/STUFFMatt Burke takes on the All Blacks in Christchurch in 2002.

There has been a high turnover of staff within the England camp over the past year but Burke says Jones should not need to apologise for his drive.

“He has his critics because of a work ethic that a lot of people don’t have,” Burke says. 

“Beaver [Jones] is on it 24-7 but if you want to be the best in the world, you can’t be part time.”

Gregan says Jones has some good characters to work with in England. He likes Owen Farrell’s attitude and identifies young lock Maro Itoje as the sort of player Jones can build a side around. 

George Gregan is an admirer of England lock Maro Itoje.
ADAM DAVY/APGeorge Gregan is an admirer of England lock Maro Itoje.

“Itoje is a young man but he’s a winner,” Gregan says. 

“He turns up with that expectation and that mindset rubs off off on players around you.. He’s got the makings of a very good team in that regard.”

But both Gregan and Burke are circumspect about England’s chances.

Burke rattles off the names of Read, Retallick, Smith and Smith and says the current All Blacks are “one formidable unit”.

Besides, Burke says, Jones can give them all the ammunition in the world but for 80 minutes at Twickenham on Sunday (4am NZ Time) but he’ll be a virtual spectator: it’s all on the players.

It raises the question of how Jones will react if the All Blacks beat him one year out from the Rugby World Cup. 

“He’ll dust himself off,” Gregan says. 

“That has a big impact on the playing group. I’m sure if they get a chance to win he’ll want them to win but if they don’t get the result the attitude will be ‘there’s things we’ve come up short in [but] we’ve played the All Blacks’.

“He’ll be very studious, and so will the playing group, to put those things in place the next time they meet, which could be in 12 months’ time.”

Jones can be knocked down but the feisty former hooker is a very hard man to knock out.

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