"It's really good for Irish rugby" - Flannery on Jones' Japanese adventure
32 years of age. Irish. Coaching at a World Cup Final.
While Irish interest supposedly ended in the tournament at the traditional Quarter Final stage two weeks ago, there will be some green involvement when South Africa take on England for the Webb Ellis trophy on Saturday.
Formerly of Leinster, Munster and Ireland, and one-time attack coach at the southern province, Felix Jones joined the South African coaching ticket on incredibly short notice. Jones was called upon by former Munster Head Coach and now South African head-honcho Rassie Erasmus when Swys de Bruin fell ill just weeks before the World Cup. Given the nod on such short notice, Jones has been tasked with detailed analysis of opposition defences and identifying potential weaknesses, rather than attempting to revolutionise the Boks' attack.
While the Springboks haven't exactly set the tournament alight in recent weeks, pummelling Japan into submission in the Quarter Finals and then grinding out a 19-16 win over Wales in the last-four stage, they are now in a World Cup Final. A marked and scarcely believable turnaround from just 18 months ago when Erasmus took over after leaving Munster.
Former teammate and coaching partner of FelixJones Jerry Flannery spoke about the momentous weekend for Jones on The JOEpan Rugby Show this week;
"Yeah it's great, it's great. Felix would have left Munster so late in the year, he would've turned his contract down in May which meant that it probably looked unlikely that he was going to pick up another coaching ticket straight away. The fact that Swys de Bruin was taken ill, which was unfortunate, but that opened a door for Felix, and I think off the back of Felix being a really strong coach and also the fact that Rassie knew that he would... If he was going to bring in anyone, there's going to be a certain amount of 'how long will it take to get this guy up to speed with what we're doing?', whereas he knew that Felix knew the system that they were going to be using with South Africa, and he knew the other coaches as well in terms of Aled Walters, Rassie, Jacque (Nienaber), so Felix slotted in there."
At just 32 years of age, Jones clearly has a promising career ahead of him, and the high regard he was held in by Joe Schmidt was emphasised when he was called in to the coaching team for the 2017 tour of Japan, and Flannery went on to point out just how massive it is for Irish rugby to have a coach like Jones in their ranks;
"You know, it's really good for Irish Rugby. I know that David Nucifora and the IRFU are very keen on developing indigenous coaches, so it's not Irish Rugby's fault that Felix left Munster, he was offered a contract, he decided to turn it down. Now he's further being upskilled after being probably one of the youngest attack coaches in European rugby, his CV now includes coaching to a World Cup Final with one of the Big 3, if you consider the traditional Big 3 of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. So now he's at that World Cup Final, because at some stage Felix is going to come back to Irish rugby."
Regardless of the result on Saturday against a favoured English side, Felix Jones' stock has risen immeasurably in recent months, and the future is bright for the Irish coach in the months and years ahead.
On Episode 12 of The JOEpan Rugby Show, Rob O'Hanrahan and Jerry Flannery preview the Rugby World Cup Final between England and South Africa, why England won't care about the Haka fine and how Rassie Erasmus has transformed the Springboks' fortunes. WATCH below: