5 lessons the England football team could learn from Eddie Jones

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We’ve just had one of those great sporting weekends where the national team was in action in all three of our most popular sports. The football team secured a comfortable if not inspiring 3-0 win over Scotland and the cricketers put in a very strong performance in drawing in India. But most impressive was the continued domination of Eddie Jones' England rugby team. Jones has masterminded an incredible year for the England side, taking them from World Cup disappointment to challenging to be the best team in the world. It's the sort of turnaround that the football team is crying out for, and it’s led to plenty of ‘where can we find football’s Eddie Jones’ conversations. So here are 5 lessons from the Jones era that could help re-invigorate the football team:

  • Embrace the outsider

Jones was by no means the traditional England appointment. For starters he's Australian, and across all sports but especially football there is still a plenty of support for the flawed notion that the England coach should be English. Jones also had a controversial reputation within the game, with a combative persona not designed to win friends. But to shake up a team it's exactly what you need. If you continue to hire coaches from the same background you're unlikely to ever comprehensively change the culture of the team. To really over haul a team, you have to go beyond the usual suspects.

  • Think different

Eddie Jones has taken a lot of criticism recently for a controversial session where he put his England team through a Judo session that resulted in new boy Sam Jones breaking his leg. The England coach was using the session to teach the team transferable skills of body positioning and control that could help them particularly around the breakdown. While it may have led to an injury, it’s the sort of approach that can give a genuine competitive edge and improve the team’s ability. And I find it really hard to imagine ever reading that the England football team did anything like this. Einstein called madness do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you’re doing the same drills and techniques that you’ve always done, and that everyone else does, how exactly can you expect to catch up? England need to shake it up.

  • Find a style of play

Watching a great football team, a Barcelona or Bayern Munich, you can instantly recognise their style. They play a distinct game that they have perfected and drilled into the players. In contrast, watching the England team is one of the most uninspiring activities in football. No direction, no style. Jones has established a clear style for the rugby team, built on the countries traditions and developed with his own input. England now have a clear style and a clear mentality, one that has proven hugely successful. If the football team is to have as significant a turnaround it needs to find out what it is.  

  • Attitude

Perhaps the most notable feature of Jones’ England is the attitude which the players bring every time they step on to the pitch. Jones has successfully brought his combative personality to the team and created an ‘us against them’ mind-set that has brought an edge to the England team it lacked under Stuart Lancaster. Compare that to an England football team that looked genuinely terrified to step on to the pitch at Euro 2016. It’s definitely easier said than done, but England need to overcome their fear factor and try and bring some swagger to their game.

  • Selection

But however good coaching is, the players on the pitch are still the ones that make the biggest difference. Getting the right players on the pitch is a skill in itself, and it’s one that has been a key success of the Jones era. He re-vamped large parts of the time after his appointment, particularly the pack. He also made the somewhat contentious decision to make Dylan Hartley his captain, a decision that has been key to re-vamping the side. Contrast that with the attitude of the England football team that still slavishly sticks with Wayne Rooney come rain or shine. Eddie Jones has shown that you can’t be afraid to rip up the team sheet and start again, and if the football team is to have the same turn around, they’ll have to follow his lead.   


James Fenn

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search