English sport revived... by Aussies!

2016-03-31 21:29
Eddie Jones (AP)

Manchester - It seems there's a simple answer to the woes of England's national sports teams: Hire an Australian as its coach.

For proof, check out the recent fortunes of England in rugby and cricket.

England's rugby team was humiliated at its own World Cup last year, becoming the first host to fail to get out of the pool stage. Eddie Jones, a brash, say-it-like-it-is Tasmanian, was hired in November and five months later, England is back as Europe's top side after winning a Grand Slam in the Six Nations.

Similarly, English cricket was in a mess early in 2015 after a group-stage elimination at the 50-over World Cup, which included an embarrassing loss to Bangladesh. Enter Trevor Bayliss, an unassuming New South Walian whose calm presence behind the scenes has helped England win back-to-back test series against Australia and South Africa and then reach the final of the Twenty20 World Cup.

Jones and Bayliss have gone about reviving their new teams in very different ways, but the results have been successful. And one word seems to stand out when assessing the biggest characteristic the Australians have brought.


"He makes us believe how good we can be," England rugby star Mike Brown said of Jones after the team completed a first Grand Slam in 13 years.

And it doesn't stop there when it comes to the Australian coaching takeover in England. In February, Wayne Bennett — arguably the world's greatest rugby league coach in a generation — was hired to lead England's national team.

With Bennett being a die-hard Queenslander, the appointment came as a shock in rugby league circles, and already he's made it abundantly clear where his roots lie.

When asked if he would be singing the English national anthem before games, Bennett responded: "I won't be singing God Save the Queen: I'm Australian."

That has not proved to be an issue for the 56-year-old Jones, who belted out the anthem ahead of his first game in charge of England — the Six Nations opener against fierce rival Scotland at Murrayfield. England won that game, and the rest against Italy, Ireland, Wales and France to win the Six Nations.

There appear to be many secrets to Jones's success: Honesty with his players, freshness of ideas, playing to the team's strengths and treating his squad like adults. That includes letting the players have beers together.

"The whole environment has changed," England prop Mako Vunipola said. "There has been a lot more emphasis on team bonding . having a beer was part of it, but we went out to the cinema and did other things as well."

It contrasts with the school-teacher approach taken by Jones' predecessor, Stuart Lancaster. Both are authoritarians in their own right, but the message of Jones — England's first overseas rugby coach — seems to be getting across better.

While Jones' next task will be beating his native Australia in a three-test series in June, Bayliss' is more immediate.

England will look to become the first two-time winner of the T20 World Cup when it plays the final on Sunday, and don't expect Bayliss to be getting carried away.

He works in the shadows and is barely noticed, compared to the in-your-face style of Jones. During the T20 tournament in India, Bayliss has been seen sitting at the back of the dugout during matches, leaning back with his arms folded.

"Bayliss is cool and calm," former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday. "And only speaks when he needs to."

Bayliss, 53, prefers to shun the media or gamesmanship, whereas Jones uses media conferences as an opportunity to ruffle opponents or make a point to referees.

Bayliss' approach has been all about giving his players freedom and belief to do their own thing and make their own choices. And it's working, transforming England's fortunes in limited-overs cricket. Test cricket is still king in England, but Bayliss has ensured T20 and the one-day format share a place in the limelight.

After guiding England to the world T20 semi-finals, Bayliss was asked if he could at least appreciate a sense of satisfaction among England fans.

"That might be the difference between Australia and England," he said with a smile.

Of the big team sports in England, only soccer has been left untouched by the hands of Australian coaches.

Watch out, Roy Hodgson.

Read more on:    england  |  trevor bayliss  |  eddie jones  |  cricket  |  rugby

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