There was a managerial meeting of minds this week as England Rugby coach Eddie Jones met Chelsea FC’s interim manager Guus Hiddink.
The Australian was full of praise for Hiddink’s achievements – notably his success with South Korea at the 2002 World Cup – and revealed that the two had plenty in common:
“I was in a similar position [of putting a demoralised side back together] so we were comparing notes. I picked up three or four really great ideas and that is the great thing.”
Where Hiddink has merely steadied the ship at Chelsea, however, Jones has already reversed the fortunes of English rugby by winning the Six Nations in only his first few months in charge.
Jones is a follower of football and referenced Liverpool’s extraordinary three-goal comeback against Dortmund last week as an example of why he likes the game. He also mentioned England’s recent 3-2 win against world champions Germany, where he singled out one player in particular that he feels could switch sports and play rugby at a high standard…
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) April 20, 2016
“Looking at England’s game against Germany, I thought, the speed and precision of those guys played at…that Dele Alli, you know, he could play rugby, he’d be a terrific player.”
20 year old Alli has earned rave reviews for his performances for Tottenham this season – not only is he the red-hot favourite for this season’s Young Player of the Year award, but he is also likely to be an important part of Roy Hodgson’s England plans at this summer’s European Championships.
Jones is not the first coach to suggest that Alli would have made a fine rugby player – his old PE teacher at school, Tim Hudson, also believed that Alli’s attributes meant he could have been proficient at a number of sports:
“Dele was a very able sportsman. It wasn’t just football he was talented at. He could turn his hand to most sports.
“But most of all he was a very good winger in rugby union. He was very quick and nimble, which made him able to dance past defenders very quickly.
“Dele has an intelligent brain and could see space. So, even on a rugby field, he was able to go for that straight away.”
In any event, rugby’s loss has turned out to be football’s gain.