In a post-Erasmus world where seemingly an entire country has been whipped into Trumpian tin-foil lunacy, I imagine I’ll get short shrift for suggesting that a coach’s entertainment value is of more worth than his win-loss record but if there’s a happy middle ground, surely Eddie Jones straddled it like Steve Buscemi atop a nuclear warhead.
Oh, it’s such a shame he’s gone.
Our friends in England seem to have bitterly forgotten that after transforming Japan from a formality to a joy, he took on the oldest international rugby union in the world and ground out the best win percentage of any to hold that job. Ever.
If Ireland quadrennially peak too soon, Jones made no secret from the off that everything for him, every four years, would be about building to the World Cup.
So naturally, it makes perfect sense for the RFU to call in Ian McGeechan to fire him ten months before the next one kicks off.
But why should Scots, or indeed anyone not of an Anglo-Saxon lilt care?
Because as Luke needed Vader, as Frodo needed Sauron, and as Tony Stark needed independent cinema, heroes need villains.
And no one played England’s villainous leader better than the Bastard from Burnie.
Well, that’s not strictly true. In terms of sheer accumulated dislike, Ser Clive, Warden of the Woods, Defender of the Realm, Manager of Middles, and the Lion Who Lost, unquestionably has him beat. Nobody likes Ser Clive. Even the English don’t really like Ser Clive but they understandably do their best to forget that because he invented Jonny Wilkinson’s right leg.
Andy Robinson became more friend than foe with terms at Edinburgh and Scotland after he left the Throne.
Brian Ashton… hang on.
No, me neither.
Then there was Martin Johnson; an unquestionably effective and successful captain whose main impact as England coach was normalising red cards on the field and seething red faces in post-match interviews with Sonja McLaughlin. No, there’s no real villainy there.
Six years after that World Cup the English still hadn’t moved on enough to forgive Scotland Age Grade man Stuart Lancaster for not being The Clive and in their defence, his pool stage exit at England’s own World Cup in 2015 while hilarious for the rest of us, was something else entirely for them.
And then there was Eddie. Outspoken, uncouth, impolite, disrespectful, uncaring, flippant, jesting, Eddie. And Eddie got it immediately.
“Sir Clive (Woodward) summed it up best when he said everyone hates England. And it’s true. Because of the history that is involved, the surrounding countries with the social and historical context, that long-seated rivalry – you can feel that hatred of England.”Eddie Jones, 2016
Hate’s a strong word for a game based around as silly a premise as throwing an egg-shaped ball backwards to move forward, and of course we don’t really mean it. We hate injuries, racism, and motor neurone disease.
We don’t hate hate England.
But for the context of fun, sod it. Everyone hates England. It’s as much a part of rugby as line-outs, TMOs and moaning about ITV. And Eddie got it. Eddie knew he was the villain and Gods Bless Him, he played it with as much camp preposterousness as the role required.
Eddie wound Scotland fans up as much as anyone pre-game. While there was never anything as mean-spirited as Ser Clive’s, “Scotland are a second-tier nation,” there were plenty of mind games to be had whether mocking Scotland’s propensity to fling the ball on the horizontal without ever actually making any ground, or playing up their status as favourites and suggesting they’d be unable to cope with the pressure.
Eddie had compliments wrapped in critique and praise laced with mordacity. Eddie was a pain in the arse.
Scotland played England seven times during his tenure – one of the most successful in English history, remember – and the score is sadly level. Three wins apiece, with one ever-so-slightly extraordinary draw in the middle. The man deserved a decider.
Those north of the border will surely remember them more fondly than those to the dismal south. Partly because they include That Pass, partly because the draw featured thirty minutes of some of the finest Scottish play of all time, and partly because we didn’t just beat England, we beat Eddie Jones.
And for as much as the man enjoyed stirring a particular pot in the lead-up to matches, he was never slow to congratulate Scotland when the colour of the day was tartan.
Ecclesiastes taught us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time for war and a time for peace.
Jones understood that the time for antagonism was pre-game, and the time for humility was post.
He may have never mastered the timing on silence over speaking, but for Scots, now is the time to love after hate.
Eddie Jones was incredibly good fun to hate. He was a good sport. He was the England coach we needed and deserved.
He will be missed.
…also: Wales fired Wayne Pivac on Monday.