Before his arrival in England at the end of 2015, Eddie Jones was best known in the Northern Hemisphere as the man who led Japan to a legendary win over South Africa in the World Cup earlier that year.
However, he soon made his presence known to the media as he prepared for his first-ever Six Nations and his reputation as an outspoken and sometimes controversial character began to form.
That reputation was solidified in February 2016 when Jones singled out Ireland number 10 Johnny Sexton in the build-up to their highly-anticipated third-round clash.
In 2014, Sexton was sidelined for 12 weeks after he suffered four concussions within a year. During Ireland’s second-round clash, the Leinster man appeared dazed as he left the field in the closing stages of the loss to France.
During a press conference, Jones was asked what he thought made Ireland difficult opponents but instead of answering, he went on a tangent about Sexton’s health.
“Sexton is an interesting one, they’ve talked about him having whiplash injury which is not a great thing to talk about.
“I’m sure his mother and father would be worried about that. Hopefully, the lad’s all right on Saturday to play.”
According to Jones, he was adjusting to the vast media scrutiny that accompanies the Six Nations. During his time in Japan, he worked in “blissful harmony” but he found that the media demands that accompanied being England head coach were unrelenting.
He admits that his inexperience with the media led him to make the “big mistake” in the lead-up to the Ireland game.
“I wanted to divert attention from my players and so I went after the Irish. I pointed out that, under Joe Schmidt, they kicked away between 60 and 70 percent of their possession. I was stirring them up deliberately. I said that I’d be taking my boys to watch Stoke City so we could get used to the ball being hoofed high in the air.
However, Jones concedes that his comments on Sexton “went too far”.
“Johnny Sexton is the Irish talisman at 10. He is as brave as he is brilliant and he had taken a lot of bangs to the head. He had suffered another pounding against France in a game which the Irish lost 10-9 and there was much speculation as to whether he would play against us.
“I spoke crassly.”
Jones knew immediately that he had made a mistake by mentioning Sexton’s parents but nothing could have prepared him for the backlash he faced. Some of the criticism aimed at him was uncalled for, according to Jones.
“All hell broke loose. I copped an absolute hammering in the media for bringing a player’s family into it.
“I had been careless and gone too far but I thought some of the coverage was unfair and unreasonable. I certainly had not intentionally meant to cause any offence.”
The Irish out-half came through the game unscathed, lasting 77 minutes before being substituted by Ian Madigan. However, his contribution was not enough to prevent a 21-10 win for England thanks to tries from Anthony Watson and Mike Brown.
The victory maintained Eddie Jones’ unbeaten run as head coach but while matters on-field appeared rosy, he was frustrated by his own actions off-field as he hit out once again in the post-match press conference.
“After the match, I was still steaming about some of the harsher commentary and announced I was putting a media ban on myself. ‘I don’t want to do anything that offends the media or offends people’s parents,’ I said. ‘If I don’t say anything, you come away from the press conference and say it’s boring. If I say something, I’m scaremongering. I can’t win.
“So the easiest way is that I don’t come to the media conference.’
“It wasn’t my finest moment. I’d lost my temper and control of the story. I was cranky with myself because I knew that effectively managing my daily communication would be a critical factor in our future success.
“At the midway point of the Six Nations, the football was going well but I was struggling with my off-field game”.
Jones’ portrayal in the media didn’t seem to have any negative effect on his team. England went on to beat Wales in Twickenham in the fourth round before a final 21-31 victory over France sealed the Grand Slam for 2016.