Former Wallabies boss Eddie Jones is in contention for a return as the head coach of the Japanese national rugby team, the Brave Blossoms.
The seasoned coach, who previously led Japan from 2012 to 2015, recently underwent a second interview for the position, signalling his interest in guiding the team through the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia. However, Jones faces stiff competition from Frans Ludeke, a highly experienced South African coach.
The meeting between Eddie Jones and Japanese officials took place in person at the Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo on Thursday, per reports in the Sydney Morning Herald.
During this encounter, the 63-year-old engaged in discussions with Japan Rugby Union president Masato Tsuchida and CEO Kensuke Iwabuchi. This follows a previous virtual meeting on August 25, which Jones allegedly held with Japanese representatives ahead of the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup campaign.
Despite consistent denials from Jones, reports suggest that this meeting occurred before Australia’s critical clash with Wales, which ultimately resulted in a 40-6 defeat and their premature exit from the tournament.
Eddie Jones had previously led the Wallabies during the World Cup, but the disappointing performance against Wales marked the end of his tenure.
Departing 10 months into a five-year contract, Jones cited issues within Rugby Australia for his exit. Now, he is eager to take the reins of the Brave Blossoms once again and lead them into the 2027 Rugby World Cup on home soil.
Frans Ludeke, the other contender for the coaching role, currently coaches the Kubota Spears and boasts success with the Bulls in Super Rugby, winning consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010. While Ludeke may lack extensive international coaching experience, his achievements in domestic competitions and brief stints with the Springboks and Fiji add weight to his candidacy.
Two Wallabies players, Lalakai Foketi and Angus Bell, have shared their thoughts on the potential return of Eddie Jones. Foketi acknowledged that it would be disheartening to see Jones take the helm of the Brave Blossoms but praised his dedication and efforts to improve Australian rugby.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think it would hurt a little bit just because of all the chat around [it] before [the Wales game],” Foketi told reporters.
“You can’t fault his effort and his drive and want to make Australian rugby better. So we really respected him and respect him.
“So I guess if that (Japan job) happens then good on him.”
Bell, expressing personal disappointment at Jones’ departure, emphasised the positive impact the coach had on his individual development.
“I was personally disappointed, I really liked Eddie,” the prop said.
“He got the best out of me as an individual and a player and I really enjoyed being under him and coached by him and the rest of the staff with ‘Hats’ (Neal Hatley) as the scrum and forwards coach.
“It is disappointing seeing them go because they are quality coaches and we can see in parts there we are a great team but we weren’t able to put it together for 80 minutes at all.” Bell concluded.
When asked if the reports surrounding Jones’ future played a role in the Wallabies’ World Cup defeat to Wales, Bell dismissed the notion, emphasising the team’s focus on the competition. He praised Jones for his commitment and the behind-the-scenes efforts to propel the team forward, stating that the coach did everything possible for the group.
“Not really,” he responded. “Again, there’s plenty of media, there’s always articles that are released that aren’t positive or have a negative impact on people.
“I guess we had bigger fish to fry in the competition … so, no, I don’t think it affected us at all. We knew Eddie was committed with how much he was doing behind the scenes and what he was doing for the group.” Bell concluded.