'Felix captained Munster, broke his neck and broke his neck again'
"I'd be thinking, 'Oh f***, where has my life gone?!' And then to see Felix then going on to win a World Cup, I was like, 'Oh GOD, what have I done?!'"
In truth, Jerry Flannery could not be happier for his friend, and former work colleague, Felix Jones.
He could not be prouder.
Less than two years after their coaching team at Munster was broken up - driven by one man's desire to go back and revive South African rugby - four of the province's former coaching team have won a World Cup.
Rassie Erasmus was the man who, at a wrench, left part-way through his Munster project and brought Jacques Nienaber and Aled Walters with him. Earlier this summer, Felix Jones joined the exodus. On Saturday, in Japan, that tough call looked the right call as the Springboks claimed their third World Cup crown.
— Aled Walters (@AledWalters) November 2, 2019
Back in May, Jones and Flannery made the decision to leave the Munster set-up. Erasmus came calling for Jones when South Africa backs coach Swys de Bruin stepped away due to personal issues.
On the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, Flannery spoke about the rise and rise of Jones, the coach, with Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble.
"I was so proud, man," says Flannery. "I was so proud.
"Because you always wonder when you lose in semi-finals, you're like, 'Oh shit. What more could we have done?' and you're always questioning it. Particularly when you're young coaches.
"When you're young, inexperienced coaches, all you have is your reputation. And if you haven't won, if you haven't won, then people can always say, 'Not good coaches', you know what I mean? And then to see Felix go on and win the World Cup, using the plan that we had initially with Munster.
"And I understand that that plan must add layers. You must add layers to it, like. If they continue with, basically, as much of that same squad as they can, and the same management, they will have to add layers on their attack, going into that Lions Series (in 2021)."
Flannery believes that coaching is the same as playing - it all comes down to commitment and hard work.
"Felix is a very hard worker and he demands hard work out of people; the same as Joe Schmidt, the same as Eddie Jones, the same as Rassie (Erasmus). All the guys who win, hard work is THE most important thing. If you don't work hard, you're not going to win.
"And I think that he would have seen that Felix had a really good work ethic. He would have seen that Felix devoted himself into it with Munster. You know, like, he came down from Leinster. He's as Leinster as you could be. He's from St. Andrew's (College).
"He came down and captained Munster, broke his neck, broke his neck again, and then had to stop. Went in coaching at 31 years of age, coaching a Munster team that barely, barely scraped into Europe the year before, of which I was part of the coaching team! And came in, himself, Rassie and Jacques and we got to a European semi, against Saracens, and we got to the final of the league."
Jones, Flannery, Erasmus & Co. did not bring silverware to Munster before they all, at varying junctures, moved on. That would have been a regret but they were able to similarly transform the Springboks and give them a game-plan and a new work ethic.
The talent, and size, was always there. Jones and his fellow coaches were able to harness it but it took a heap of effort and toil.
No better men to roll up the sleeves.
WATCH THE LATEST HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
SUBSCRIBE TO BAZ & ANDREW'S HOUSE OF RUGBY: https://playpodca.st/house-of-rugby-ie
The latest episode sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery look back on the enthralling 2019 World Cup final and the rise of Felix Jones.