Cape Town – An emerging dark horse, in the form of France, could represent an additional threat to South Africa’s World Cup 2019-winning status as the Springboks bid to retain it for the first time in 2023.
That is the belief of Eddie Jones, head coach of beaten finalists England in Yokohama recently.
Speaking from the UK in a media opportunity linked to the release of his new book My Life and Rugby: The Autobiography (with Donald McRae, published by Pan Macmillan), Jones told Sport24 that France – though currently seventh on the World Rugby rankings – could well join the list of credible challengers to the Boks’ title.
“I think France are going to be really dangerous; they’re moving in the right direction, with a home World Cup coming up in 2023.
“A good sign is that they won the last U20 World Cup (in Argentina earlier this year) so they clearly have a lot of good young players coming through – they should become increasingly more dangerous over the next four years.”
Former Wallabies mastermind and Bok 2007 advisor Jones predicts a champagne next edition of the Rugby Championship in 2020.
Asked how hard it would be for the Boks to hold onto that title – they won a shortened edition in 2019 – while boasting the additional burden, in some respects, of world champions, Jones replied: “I think it will be absolutely fascinating … a bit like the Six Nations often pans out for (excitement).
“You’ll have New Zealand absolutely desperate for revenge, with a new coach, and the players will still be hurting.
“But Australia will be immeasurably stronger under Dave Rennie, who is a very, very good coach … he’ll bring them together and they’ll play decent rugby.
“It will be a great tournament, perhaps one of the best for (a while).”
Jones said he felt Rassie Erasmus, the victorious Bok RWC head coach, would stay significantly involved in the national team’s affairs despite his shift to a more specific emphasis on director of rugby and a new head coach to be appointed soon.
“Rassie’s done a great job with the Springboks. As director he will have a wider range of responsibilities but at the end of the day he’ll still have a great interest in how they shift onward.
“Under the (current coaching group) they’ve made the country proud and they will want that to continue.”
Jones was philosophical about the likelihood that he may not get the chance to avenge the 32-12 World Cup final result recently until the end of 2021, which currently seems the earliest opportunity for the Boks to meet England again.
“Look, the programme is at it is. When we do eventually get to play them again, obviously it would be great to see if we can get on top of them. At the end of the day, you can’t change that World Cup result.
“I remember after the 2003 final with Australia (Jones’s then-charges were pipped 20-17 by England deep into extra time in Sydney – Sport24), we played England again in June of the following year and beat them by around 40 points (a 51-15 result in Brisbane).
“Look, I took over an English team with a lot of potential; I certainly felt we were good enough to win the 2019 World Cup. We are the youngest team statistically to play in the final yet.
“If the players have the same desire they showed (for the latest World Cup) going forward, then we’ll only keep improving.”
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