Eddie Jones tells a good story about the most cutting rebuke he has ever received after a rugby game. At Twickenham in 2017, a television camera caught him mouthing the F-word as his England team struggled to victory over Argentina.

Post-match formalities over, his mobile rang. The caller was his American-born, Japanese-descended mother, Nellie, then aged 93. The message from mum was clear: "Don't swear."

Jones' language might not have improved much since, but even the formidable Nellie will forgive the odd bit of blue language if he becomes a World Cup winner this weekend.

Besides, attempting to dilute Jones' combative nature is surely a forlorn task. It was already much in evidence in his playing days as a hooker who had to punch above his weight.


"Eddie was a combative animal," says former Wallaby hooker Lance 'Butch' Walker who played against him in the 1988 Shute Shield final, Australia's premier club rugby competition - a game that has since passed into the country's sporting folklore.

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For the second Grand Final running, the unfancied Warringah 'Rats' faced Jones's Randwick outft. It was rugby's version of Roundheads v Cavaliers, with Randwick boasting the inimitable David Campese in its backline along with 10 other past or future Wallabies.

In among all these superstars, Jones did not glitter brightly - after all, he never won a full international call-up. But he made up for that in other ways.

"Playing against Eddie was like being pestered by an annoying fly, always buzzing, always talking," Walker recalls. "In those days, we had big front rows. Eddie was diminutive, but Randwick had a star-studded pack, as we did. He was very flexible and adapted his attributes to his team's best advantage."

England coach Eddie Jones. Photo / Photosport
England coach Eddie Jones. Photo / Photosport

That is not to say Jones' lack of opportunities at the very highest level did not smart. His nadir came in 1990 when Dwyer personally told Jones that Phil Kearns, his understudy at Randwick but taller by four inches and heavier by four stone, would be Australia's hooker leading into the 1991 World Cup, when Australia beat England in the Twickenham final. 'Beaver', as Jones was known to his Randwick teammates, was devastated.

Dwyer had been among the first to spot what he termed the "cattle dog" in the teenage Jones, persuading him and four of his indigenous schoolmates - the Ella brothers and Lloyd Walker - to join Randwick.

His faith was based on seeing Matraville High - a state school in an impoverished part of Sydney which had never had a rugby union side before Jones and the Ellas enrolled - demolish St Joseph's College, a high fee-paying private school that considers itself the Wallaby finishing school.


The idea of sticking it to a gilded elite fits well with Jones' ethos, which has always been that of the combative outsider, forever cocking a snook at authority. Much of his drive and doggedness comes from his parents. His father Ted died in 2013, but it is the similarities between Jones and his mother - now 95 - that are most striking.

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If he is tough, she is tougher. Nellie forged a new life in Australia after being interned in a US concentration camp, then being repatriated to a post-apocalyptic Hiroshima.

Nellie was born in the US to Japanese parents who owned a Californian orange orchard. After Pearl Harbour in 1941, all Japanese Americans were interned. When the war ended, her embittered father moved the family back to Japan and teased for her US accent. At 21 she felt a stranger in her native land. She met Ted Jones near Hiroshima while working as an interpreter. He was an Australian soldier, and they married, but it was not until 1956 that "mixed race" couples were allowed to settle in Australia. Eddie - their third child, after sisters Diane and Vicky - was born on Jan 30, 1960, in Burnie, a tough industrial Tasmanian port.

By the time Eddie went to primary school, the family had moved to Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. The area includes the most expensive real estate in Australia but Chiffley - dominated by Sydney's maximum security Long Bay prison - is as blue collar as a beachside suburb can get.

At La Perouse primary school, Jones became friends with the indigenous Ellas - twins Mark and Glen, and younger brother Gary. All three Ellas became Wallabies, and played in the same Matraville High and Randwick teams as Jones.

Eddie Jones alongside his daughter Chelsea and mother Nellie. Photo / Supplied/The Telegraph
Eddie Jones alongside his daughter Chelsea and mother Nellie. Photo / Supplied/The Telegraph

After school, Jones won a place at Sydney University where he met Michael Tosh. Both were majoring in physical education, with geography as their second subject. They became flatmates after Tosh bought an apartment near Marboura Beach.

"Eddie moved into the spare bedroom," he recalls. "We flatted together, trained together, travelled overseas together. Eddie always had that coach inside him. We were both hookers for different codes. I played lower grade rugby league for the (Sydney) Roosters.

"Even in our early 20s, Eddie would organise our training sessions. If we'd done sprint training at an oval near his parents house, we'd go back there for bacon and eggs.

"We'd always take our shoes off before we went in the house - that was part of his mum's heritage. They were both quiet, his mum and dad, but he was always close to them."

Jones values his Japanese heritage, and has never tried to disown it. Once, playing for New South Wales against Queensland, the opposing hooker called him "a Chinese b------". Jones' response - that his opponent was too stupid to tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese "b------" - drew laughter from the scrum, but the comment obviously resonated because Jones has often recalled it.

After graduating, Jones travelled to Japan before combining his Wallaby ambitions with his teaching career - rising to acting principal at Sydney's prestigious International Grammar School, where Astrid Wiegand was a German teacher.

Contrary to his spiky persona in rugby, Wiegand insists he was a great boss and teacher. "Eddie was well liked by both staff and students," she says. "Highly conscientious, well organised - a team player." Had he not been "such a nice guy", Wiegand points out, she would never have recommended him to a younger friend in the school's language department.

Hikito, one of the school's Japanese teachers, was ready to return to Japan. She had sold her car and her furniture, and was looking for a room to rent before her contract ran out. Wiegand knew Jones was looking for a flatmate, so told Hikito to contact him.

The rest is history. They married and had a daughter Chelsea, who now works for Rugby Australia. Jones quit his successful teaching career in 1993 to take his first professional coaching role - at Randwick, his old club.

It was a massive gamble which has paid off richly. With a salary of £750,000-a-year, Jones is already the world's best-paid rugby coach. Now, he is 80 minutes away from an even more spectacular achievement - the World Cup win which would complete his journey from habitual outsider to sport's gilded elite.