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Eddie Jones Returns as Coach of Brave Blossoms Amid Accusations the Hiring Process was Rigged

Speaking in Tokyo, Eddie Jones denied reports he spoke to Japan Rugby Football Union officials while he was still under contract with Australia.

Eddie Jones is back for a second stint as the head coach of Japan's national rugby team, but it comes amid accusations he spoke to the Japan Rugby Football Union while he was still under contract with Australia.

The Japan Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday, December 13 it has hired Jones to replace the departing Jamie Joseph.

Jones, who previously coached Japan from 2012 to 2015, will take up the post on January 1, 2024, and guide the Brave Blossoms through the 2027 Rugby World Cup in his native Australia.

At a press conference on Thursday, Jones, 63, denied he had an interview for the Japan job before the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France where Australia failed to advance from the pool stage for the first time.

"I didn't do an interview before the World Cup," Jones said in Tokyo, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

Jones added, "I was asked by the recruitment agency to share my experiences with them on Japan. Some people might have construed that as an interview but it wasn't. The first interview I had with Japan was in December. That's the only interview I had." 

Jones handed in his resignation to Australia rugby officials in October despite having a five-year contract with the Wallabies. The World Cup ran from September 8 to October 28.

Criticism of Eddie Jones in Australia

His decision to take the Japan job has been met with criticism back home. 

"My thoughts on this whole saga is that he lied," former All Blacks great Sonny Bill Williams told Australian broadcaster Channel Nine. "Obviously he lied to the players, he lied to the public, he lied to the Australian rugby union. What a disgrace."

Frans Ludeke, the South African coach of Japan Rugby League One reigning champion Kubota Spears, was one of the three candidates interviewed by the Japan Rugby Football Union, according to Kyodo News.

Eddie Jones
Brave Blossoms head coach Eddie Jones in a 2015 Rugby World Cup file photo. (Andrew Boyers/ACTION IMAGES/via REUTERS)

Jones Led Japan to New Heights in His First Stint

Despite the ill feelings of some overseas, Jones is still revered in Japan.

He led Japan to three pool-stage wins at the 2015 World Cup in England, including the famous 34-32 victory over South Africa which is widely regarded as the most storied win in the history of Japanese rugby.

After leaving Japan, Jones guided England to the final of the 2019 World Cup in Japan where it lost to South Africa.

But his time with England came to a sour end when the team won just five of its 12 test matches in 2022, and he was sacked as head coach of England last December.

Under Joseph, Japan failed to make it out of the group stage at this year's World Cup after losses to England and Argentina.

Jones' history with Japan's national team goes way back to 1996 when he was an assistant coach.

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones (left), who is embarking on a second stint as the Brave Blossoms' head coach, poses for a photo with Masato Tsuchida, president of the Japan Rugby Football Union, on December 14. (KYODO)

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The Challenge That Lies Ahead

One of Jones' major challenges will be bringing younger players into the fold, something that backfired on him in his most recent stint in Australia.

Japan international Shota Horie said recently he will retire. The 37-year-old hooker has won 76 caps for Japan.

Michael Leitch, Keita Inagaki and Pieter Labuschagne are all in their mid-30s, while Kotaro Matsushima is 30 and captain Kazuki Himeno is 29.

For now, Jones is determined to put any controversy over his hiring behind him and get down to the task of improving the Brave Blossoms.

"I'm looking forward to the task of creating a Japanese side that has real identity, that has a point of difference," he said, according to Kyodo News. "Because we are a smaller team, we need to play the game faster: faster with our feet, faster with our heads than the opposition."

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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