In the world of football, Leeds United manager and general maverick Marcelo Bielsa’s ‘spygate’ controversy, and subsequent press conference, triggered an outburst of debate and soul searching within the game regarding the moral and practical issues with spying on opposition training sessions. For Eddie Jones, though, spying us just part of professional sporting culture.
Yesterday, Jones revealed somebody had been filming England training from a nearby apartment, but swiftly dismissed its relevance in typically offhand, amusing fashion.
“There was definitely someone in the apartment block filming but it might have been a Japanese fan. I don’t care mate. We have got someone there at [New Zealand training] now. Everyone knows what everyone does so there are no surprises in world rugby any more. That’s the great thing about the game, you just have to be good enough on the day.”
Jones even suggested that he himself had employed spying tactics from 2001 onwards, but went on to say, “you just don’t need to do it any more, you can see everything. You can watch everyone’s training on YouTube. There’s no value in doing that sort of thing, absolutely zero. We knew [we were being filmed] from the start, it doesn’t change anything, we love it.”
Indeed, England and Jones appear to be relishing the chance to come up against the mighty All Blacks, and fans will be salivating at the prospect (if unlikely at this stage) of an England/Wales final. There will inevitably be an element of aggression, tension and anticipation between the rival camps and players, but between Hansen and Jones there is nothing but respect.
The two are reportedly in close, regular, contact and get on well.
“He’s a good bloke, to start with,” said Jones. “That’s No 1. Secondly, he’s got a great record. Just look at his record – Super Rugby with the Crusaders when we started coaching against each other followed by Wales, followed by New Zealand. You don’t get a better record than that.”
Jones also stressed the importance of such cordiality for rugby as a sport, “having a respectful relationship is important in the game. You just have to see this tournament what it’s done. The things that happen in this tournament don’t happen in other sports.
“You’ve got the Canadian and Namibian blokes cleaning up the ground. Could you imagine Ronaldo or Messi doing that if Barcelona or Real Madrid gets a [game] washed out? It’s a different game. And that’s why relationships with players, coaches and fans is so important in our game.”
Hansen too has been full of praise, both for England and Jones himself, saying, “they’re a very good side. They’ve come to this tournament after being hurt at the last one and through that adversity – I think they’re stronger because of it. They’re desperate and they’re well coached.”
This tone strikes a stark juxtaposition between Hansen and Warren Gatland on the 2017 Lions tour, when relations were notably frostier and more confrontational. Alas, there will be plenty of drama too come on Saturday.
Written by Joe Ronan