A daring new appointment as skipper, seven uncapped rookies in his maiden squad and wisecrack-laden press conferences have all suggested that English rugby is set for a thrilling and unpredictable ride under its new, wily Australian head coach Eddie Jones.
Off the pitch, perhaps. But opinion is divided among some in the game about whether the same will be true on it. Fellow countryman and World Cup-winner David Campese, for one, believes Jones has a “robotic” nature that could leave England lacking flair, verve and imagination.
“He’s a very professional coach, will get the best out of the team and I’m sure he is going to do a great job but I don’t think he is going to get people running from the pubs to come and watch,” Campese told City A.M.
“I have had a bit of feedback from ex-coaches who coached with Eddie in Australia and they weren’t very impressed with how he went about it – but he won. But I guess that’s what England are looking for.”
Jones has demanded more grunt from England’s pack and urged them to regain a fearsome reputation, with steel rather than style seemingly the initial priority, although “not like an old Stoke City”, as he quipped.
But as preparations conclude for Jones’s opening salvo as head coach, against Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday, Campese predicts the ex-Randwick hooker’s entire approach to reviving England will be far more regimented than cavalier.
“Somebody like Danny Cipriani probably won’t feature for England at all under Jones because of the way he plays. He is a maverick and Eddie doesn’t want that,” added the 53-year-old, who has launched his own coaching app for budding rugby players.
“He is a schoolteacher and an organiser. That is what they do: structure, structure, structure.”
Long-serving Saracens lock Hugh Vyvyan worked under Jones throughout his spell in charge of the Allianz Park club during the 2008/09 season and believes England’s players face a collegiate pathway of sorts, albeit more a school of hard knocks.
“He is an uncompromising coach and he’s got a method of trying to get the best out of people. He will be very hard on some players, especially younger players as he wants them to have incredibly high standards,” Vyvyan told City A.M.
“Eddie has got a huge amount of presence, he is a tough taskmaster and there is an element of fear there too. He tests you physically and he also tests you mentally. There will definitely be some mind games.
“He likes tough players and players who are mentally tough. That’s why he plays mind games and will try to get under the skin of players in training: to weed out those who are not mentally tough enough for international rugby.
“There may be some casualties along the way as some players might not like his approach but it’s all done to get the best out of you.”
Vyvyan is convinced that the ferociously intense environment fostered and demanded by the former Australia and Japan coach makes Jones a better fit for the international, rather than domestic, arena.
“He demands very high standards and over the course of a Premiership season that can be quite tough on coaches and players,” added Vyvyan.
“But in shorter bursts, his style and approach make him more suited to international rather than club rugby. It’s safe to say that he doesn’t have a loving, caring environment which Saracens have now.”
Former South Africa and current Sarries scrum-half Neil de Kock also represented the club while Jones was in charge and considers the 56-year-old’s approach to have been more inspirational than debilitating.
“He is charismatic, so you want to follow him. He is incredibly thorough and his attention to detail is incredible. His work ethic is also second to none,” De Kock told City A.M.
“Eddie was a coach who would be at the club first and would leave last. You would always feel that you would have to do more and that you wanted to do more. I have seen him being pretty hard-nosed and demanding when the time calls for it but at the same time he is also very supportive and very complimentary when things go well.
“He is a tough man and the kind of coach you want to play for and want to impress.”