Eddie Jones is mid-flow; he is explaining the metamorphosis that no one quite understands... how he turned the England rugby team into serial winners within months of taking over.

'I just changed their mindsets, that's all,' he says with a small shrug, palms held upwards as if to suggest it is the simplest thing in the world.

But that is hard to do, surely? 'You have to give them a reason to change. In sport, the biggest reason is because you want to be great. So, as the coach, you need a clear vision of what will make them great and you bombard them with that until they believe it.

'My vision was that they should be more 'English', so I kept repeating the message in different ways. One day I put mustard on it, the next day I put tomato sauce on it - but it was basically the same message.'


He sounds a bit like Donald Trump, I say, and Jones's eyebrows raise a little, his lips creasing at the edges. I have heard the players talk about this look... you are not sure whether his gentle pursing is in thought or anger; in amusement or fury.

Jones knows that if he comments on Trump, it will make headlines. I have interviewed hundreds of sportsmen and women and I think 90 per cent of them would smile and say 'not really'. Jones does not.

'Yes, like Trump,' he says, as the England team's PR man quivers gently in the corner. 'Trump's clever. There's no denying that. The mantra 'Make America great again' - he repeats and repeats it. Americans were pounded with that message.

'People on the television say, "I think he can make America great again." There's no evidence he can; but he's convinced them. He's changed mindsets. That's how you win. And having super-talented players.'

It is a bright, crisp morning at Pennyhill Park Hotel. Jones strides across the sun-dappled patio through the wood-panelled room looking remarkably young for his 56 years.

'They warned me about England in January,' he says, glancing through the window at the frosty plants and bare branches. 'But it's better than I thought. The sun's out today.'

He says he is enjoying his time in England and it seems to suit him. He is fresh-faced and looks healthy. Days afterwards he is sporting a badly cut and swollen eye (the origins of which are still something of a mystery) but this morning he looks well. He is quietly spoken and remarkably open and amusing. Indeed he shows no signs of being a monster who tears 20st rugby players apart with his bare hands.

Jones has a fearsome reputation. 'I once saw a Japanese player climbing under furniture to avoid getting within eyesight of him,' Ben Darwin, ex-Australia prop who knows Jones well, told me.


'Ah, man, that was a long time ago,' says Jones. 'When I was young I was more aggressive and demanding. Age tends to teach you there are other ways to do things. In the past players were different. You could tell them what to do and they'd say "How high do you want me to jump?" Now players will say "Why should I jump?"'

So he is never aggressive? I tell him I find that hard to believe.

'Some players need it,' he says. 'Billy Vunipola doesn't need a lot of coaching, he's a natural rugby player but needs encouragement. Whereas Marland Yarde... Marland Yarde! That man needs a kick every day. Every day. Man, I can't find a big enough boot to kick him with.'

Jones came into the England set-up after stints with Australia, South Africa and Japan. By the time he signed on with England, he had a catalogue of successes behind him, most recently Japan's shock defeat of South Africa that set the last World Cup alight.

The contrast between Japan's delight and England's misery then could not have been more stark. When he was offered the job as new England coach, did he not ask himself why on earth would he do that?

'The opposite. It was a no-brainer. I wanted to coach England because you could see they were bloody good and capable of being a great team.'

But if they were bloody good, why did they play so badly?

'There were two things. One was the lack of someone who was going to take them forward. England have always won when they've had a great leader, history teaches you that. The other thing was that the playing style wasn't 'English'. Sport tends to mimic the society it operates in.

'Australians are brash and arrogant, so Australia's sporting teams are always best when they go out and attack.

'South Africans are different - the whole country has been ruled by might, so they're at their best when they're physically running into you.

'England have always wanted to strangle opposition then find a way to score points. It's a constricting game. It's physical. Think of Bodyline - that's Englishness. But quite conservative in that you have to strangle first.'

His theories are fascinating and compelling, and their practical application has been successful. England go into the Six Nations with 13 straight victories behind them under Jones (and 14 in total).

But has he been lucky? Could Stuart Lancaster have achieved the same results if he'd stayed?

'Yes,' he says, generously. 'I think the team would have grown, they would have learnt from their mistakes and been successful without me. Stuart selected the right players. Sometimes teams need different coaches at certain times.

'I wouldn't have been a good coach when all the young kids were coming through, I'm not patient enough. I'm good at challenging, not nurturing.'

With hindsight, was the World Cup defeat a good thing?

'Certainly players aren't as desperate when they win as when they lose. You look at any side after they've lost - their emotions are heightened and they come back fighting. Now we're winning, one of the most interesting things is how do I keep players desperate when they don't need to be desperate?'

The search for 'desperate players' is close to Jones's heart. He has spoken before of preferring players who come from broken homes. He wants them to have drive.

'I see a lot of young players come through who are brilliantly skilled, but rugby's hard. They fall away because they don't have a reason to fight when it's tough.'

It doesn't take a psychiatrist to spot the genesis of Jones's own reason. He had a relatively tough upbringing on the fringes of Sydney, near Long Bay Correctional Complex, described as the 'toughest prison in Australia'. He has spoken about the racial insults that were thrown at him from an early age.

His parents had tough lives, especially his Japanese mother, Nellie, who was interned in an American camp after the attack on Pearl Harbour. It was not until the end of the second World War that her family was united in Japan.

Jones's life today is very different from that of his parents. 'We live in Surrey,' he says. 'It's nice, isn't it? Even the dog prefers it here.'

He had been living in Pennyhill Park Hotel with his wife, Hiroko, but they have now bought a house.

'We're hoping to get settled soon but we're waiting for John Lewis to sort themselves out'
His average day involves getting to the office for 5am to sort out emails. I tell him his 5am emails are legendary. 'They're fine,' he says. 'They just contain a couple of words.' That is why they're legendary, I insist.

After that he goes to the gym for an hour and a half and is back at the office by 8am. He had had four meetings before our mid-morning interview. He usually works until about 7pm, has dinner with his wife, then often goes back to the office. 'I review and read and think.'

The new recruits to his coaching team were chosen for the same reason as everything else - because they fit Jones's master plan.

'In English rugby, defence and set pieces are dominant. The best defence coach was Paul Gustard and the best set-piece coach was Steve Borthwick, so I brought those two in. Also their personalities work... one's an extrovert, one's an introvert; one's analytical, one's emotional, so it's a perfect blend.

'You need some guys who want to be at the front of the bus and some at the back - if everyone wants to be at the front it won't work.'

After his vision was set and his coaches were selected, success came by selecting the right players, a task which he says is by far the most important one. 'If I don't get selection right then nothing works.'

He is so sure about the players he has that he says at the end of this year he will draft the first World Cup squad. He thinks his current players will make around 75 per cent of it.
I ask him which players have most surprised him. 'Owen Farrell and George Ford. For their ages, their ability to think and see rugby is outstanding.' He is sure coming from rugby families has helped. 'Every time they sit at the dinner table they talk rugby. It's made them good leaders.'

Jones is keen on good leaders. Not just Dylan Hartley, the captain, but across the pitch. He describes Chris Robshaw as a leader in the shadows. 'He's doing things that influence without people realising.'

Jones is committed to Hartley for now, despite his disciplinary record, but says: 'I don't pick a captain for four years.' Does that mean Hartley will not be captain for much longer? 'I don't know. Not necessarily.'

In the Six Nations, Jones is looking forward to England v France the most. 'I've always seen France as one of the great rugby nations and they're playing more French style now so it's a great challenge for us.'

I ask would he ever like to coach France and he almost explodes. 'No, no, no, no! I've been to some of the clubs - it's too chaotic for me.'

What would he like to do after England? Head to the US and join Trump's team?
'Na, I don't think so. I don't think we'd get on. I'm just a normal Aussie bloke running around coaching sport.'