Eddie Jones: Why United's pre-season will be key

Wednesday 21 July 2021 14:07

During United's pre-season training camp in Surrey, we had the chance to catch up with the legendary head coach of the England rugby union team, Eddie Jones.

The famous Aussie took his team to the World Cup final in 2019, and is regarded as one of the outstanding coaches working in his sport today.

We caught up with him for a brief chat, to see what insights he could offer on how to approach pre-seasons, the similarities between rugby and football, and which of the two sports boast the fittest athletes...

Firstly, thanks for all the work you're doing with England and for taking them forward. But we're here at this beautiful training facility to spend some much-needed time bonding and doing some hard work. How important is pre-season for any sports team?
“I think pre-season is everything. You know, you've got to get the right facility, a nice feel. You've been blessed with the weather, so it seems like you're going to have a good camp here.”
And as well as the hard work on the pitch, Ole really rates the time the players spend together for bonding. You always create a really strong unity in that dressing room – just how strong is it?
“I think time off the field just cements what you do on the field. I've noticed your boys outside the room spending a lot of time playing – what's it called, 'keep the ball up'? – and it looks like they're really enjoying themselves.”
That's vital time. The season is so busy, that there's very little time to spend these moments together. When new players arrive and young players get promoted from the youth teams... to have them exposed to this will help all of them...
“Those relationships are the key to the game, aren't they? When you're out on the field and you're in the heat of the moment, you've got to be able to trust the bloke next to you, and you can build that trust up through time off the field and the social time you spend is going to be important there.”
You do so much good work with your team to make them strong, to make them competitive. Are there any links between rugby union and football that you can see, where we can perhaps learn from each other?
“I think we're always learning. I think we learn more off you guys. But they're both invasion sports; they're both about combinations. At any time on the field there are four or five players that are crucial to that piece of play, and the way they interact and then the ability of the rest of the team to anticipate what's going to happen is just so important.”
And I guess in a club season, you don't have much time in between games generally to work on patterns of play and tactics, so again, another vital component of a pre-season...
“You get all the time to work on the nuances of the game: how you want to play in a certain way when this happens. And the pre-season training is the base of what you do in the season.”
When you are not spending time working with the rugby team, do you spend much time watching the football? Is it a passion of yours at all, or not so much on your radar?
“I love it, mate! I wish I knew a bit more about it, but I really love it. Just watching the Euros, the speed and skill of the players... the game seems to be increasingly more intense. The ability of the players to play the ball in small space and to retain possession and get up the field quickly, you know. It's very similar to rugby: when you win a turnover, you want to get up the other end of the field quickly, and the ability of the players to string passes together, you know it's a fantastic sport and I really admire the players.”

What happened at training on Tuesday? article

Our second day in Surrey involved a double session and some fun media activities!

England were so close in the Euros, just as you were so close in the World Cup of '19. But fitness is a key component – you mentioned the transitions and how quick the game is right now. It's the same with rugby: we're seeing so many huge leaps forward in terms of fitness and practices. Just how fit is the modern-day rugby athlete?
“Yeah, pretty good. Not at the level of what the footballers are, but pretty good now. We used to traditionally have an off-season where they could relax and put on a bit of weight, but it's getting too hard for the players to do that. With the training facilities we've got here and the training facilities we've got around the world, there's every opportunity for the players to be in their best condition. They definitely have a running edge, but if they had to do a few contacts it might go the other way!” 
Sadly, many might say that physical contact is disappearing from the Premier League. But it's such a huge component...
“Rugby's still very much a collision and run game, whereas football's very much a run game, isn't it? And that's the difference. So our guys are obviously more heavily muscled, and you've probably seen in the gym there the sort of weights they lift. Your guys, it's all about evading collision and, sometimes, feinting collision!”
We've got fantastic coaches here to work with. You surround yourself with good people as well. With Ole being the manager, how important is it that he surrounds himself with the right people?
“The performance staff – your coaching, your nutrition, your sports science, your medical staff – they are all the foundation of the programme, and then the manager or the head coach then comes in and makes sure it's all coordinated, all moving in the right direction. If there's a tweak needed there or a tweak needed there, he's there to do that. His ability to observe and synergise all of that work is just so important.”
Highlights from Tuesday’s training Video

Highlights from Tuesday’s training

Things to look out for in our latest video: Heaton’s save and a cheeky megs from Jesse…

And with a manager of any sport, are there certain principles that remain the same throughout?
“It's about having that vision; about making sure that all the resources within the team or within the club are moving towards that vision. Making sure the key relationships are in place and mining for conflicts, because in any team there is always problems, and the quicker you can find out about those problems and sort them out, the better you are.”
We were blessed at United for so many years to have Sir Alex Ferguson as our leader, and everyone who's worked under him will have learned something. Who did you learn from before you came into the position you're in now?
“I had a similar guy as Sir Alex. I've been lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions – a guy called Bob Dwyer, who won the '91 World Cup with Australia. He's a similar guy: very engaging, great storyteller. But you could see he had an eye for detail, and you could see that with Sir Alex, even at his age now he can still see the game very clearly.”
It's great to have a great mentor, just as Ole has with Sir Alex. Finally, is there anything you might be looking at – tips, techniques – to pick up and bring back to your squad?
“I'm always interested in how the training is organised, and what is the objective of the training, and then what are the coaches doing to make sure that objective is met. So it's more about the movement and the objective of the session.”