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Eddie Jones set to be appointed Japan coach six weeks after walking out on Wallabies

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10th December, 2023
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Six weeks after walking out on Australian rugby, Eddie Jones is set to return to the Japanese head coaching position.

According to Japanese media, the 63-year-old has beaten South Africa’s Frans Ludeke, who earlier this year took Bernard Foley’s Kubota Spears to the Japanese League One title, to return to the Brave Blossoms head coaching role.

The duo was short-listed for the role and held secondary interviews last week in Tokyo.

But Jones’ close association to Japan Rugby Football Union Matsato Tsuchida, who has known the Australian for three decades, always appeared to give him the inside running.

Only board approval is needed, with Jones’ appointment expected to be confirmed on December 13 when the JFRU meets. A press conference is expected to follow.

“It was confirmed on the 9th that Eddie Jones (63), former HC of the Australian national rugby team, will be appointed as the new head coach (HC) of the Japan national rugby team,” the Yahoo Sports said, via online translation.

Eddie Jones is set to return to the Japanese head coaching role. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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What’s more, Chris Webb, the former Wallabies manager who departed Rugby Australia in late October and has had a two-decade relationship with Jones, is set to join the coach at the JFRU.

Webb, who is a consultant with Japanese League One side Toshiba, flew to Japan over the weekend.

He was met at Haneda Airport by local reporters, with Sponichi reporting that Webb had said: “Nothing had been decided yet”.

“It was revealed on the 8th that Eddie Jones (63), who served in the same position from 2012 to 2015, has been confirmed to return as the next head coach (HC) of the Japan national rugby team,” the Sponichi website said, via online translation.

“If approved by the Board of Directors on the 13th, he will be officially appointed for the first time in eight years,” Sponichi reported.

“Regarding the selection of the next head coach, Japan Association President Masato Tsuchida, who has a close relationship with Jones, led the return and made a secret offer to Jones, who had been Australia’s coach this spring.

“An open call was held in July, with League1 Division 1 Tokyo Bay head coach Frans Ludeke and others nominating. Final interviews were held with the two finalists in Tokyo on the 7th. As originally planned, Mr Jones was selected.”

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Jones oversaw rugby’s greatest upset, as his Brave Blossoms knocked over the Springboks in their 2015 World Cup opener.

The upset paved the way for Jones’ dramatic unveiling by the Rugby Football Union as England’s coach later that year, where the Australian would hold the role until the end of 2022.

Eddie Jones oversaw the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history as Japan beat South Africa in Brighton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Jones’ extraordinary return to the Japanese head coaching role comes after he resigned from Rugby Australia as Wallabies coach on October 29.

He finished up officially with RA on November 25 and immediately relocated to Japan.

His exit followed one of the most dramatic years in Australian rugby history, where he sensationally returned as Wallabies coach on January 16 on a five-year deal, with Dave Rennie sacked with one year left on his contract.

Jones, who was told by figures close to him not to accept the job, promised the Wallabies could return to past glories and could win the World Cup in what he termed a “smash and grab” job.

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Yet, he oversaw the Wallabies’ worst result at a World Cup, where the two-time champions failed to make it out of the pool after embarrassing defeats to Fiji (22-15) and Wales (40-6).

He finished the year with just two wins from nine Tests, including a winless Rugby Championship.

Along the way, Jones first set the cat amongst the pigeons when he told the Evening Standard podcast that he would depart the Wallabies regardless of the nation’s result at the World Cup in May.

Jones later backtracked on the statement, but it followed murmurs that he planned on hitting the eject button at year’s end.

A Japanese report at the start of the World Cup first linked Jones to the soon-to-be-vacant Brave Blossoms coaching role, before a bombshell story from The Sydney Morning Herald on the eve of the Wallabies’ do-or-die Pool C World Cup fixture against Wales in Lyon detailed that the Wallabies coach had interviewed with the JFRU.

Jones denied the report, saying: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

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Eddie Jones walked out on the Wallabies one season into a five-year deal. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

He threatened to end his post-match press conference following the Wales embarrassment early when pressed about his commitment to Australian rugby.

The Wallabies coach, who returned in 2023 after leading the nation between 2001 and 2005, subsequently denied any link to the JFRU on more than a dozen occasions.

Jones resigned less than 24 hours after the Rugby World Cup final, saying he could not properly do his role.

The former Randwick hooker said RA’s financial troubles and inability to usher through centralization plans played a crucial role in his decision to walk away. RA has since signed an $80 million loan deal.

Jones’ diabolical reunion with RA was the catalyst behind Hamish McLennan’s departure as chairman last month.

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