Jones v Cheika: rivals united by common background

Bob Dwyer, who led Australia to World Cup glory in 1991, explains why there is more that binds the England and Australia coaches than separates them.

OITA, 16 Oct - Two larger-than-life characters, both with a talent for verbal jousting and mind games, leading two proud rugby nations into a titanic battle.

The media has been full this week of supposed barbs and counter-barbs between England coach Eddie Jones and his Australia counterpart Michael Cheika, pictured, ahead of their quarter-final clash on Saturday.

There has been talk of "typhoon gods" smiling on England and the value of bringing outsider coaches in their camps, while Cheika responded to a query about his view of Jones's side by saying: "I don't really have one, mate." 

Asked about his 6-0 losing streak against Jones's England, the Australia coach claimed past results were "irrelevant", saying: "Looking backwards is only going to give you a sore neck."

They stand in the way of each other's obsession. Both men have lost Rugby World Cup finals as coaches of the Wallabies – Cheika in 2015, Jones in 2003 – and dearly want to supersede those defeats. There is so much at stake at Oita Stadium this weekend.

But underneath the wind-ups and bravado, Chieka and Jones share a common bond, having cut their teeth at Sydney's famous Randwick club. They both played in the famous 1988 match against the All Blacks at the Coogee Oval, which the tourists won 25-9.

Bob Dwyer, who coached Australia to triumph at Rugby World Cup 1991, is uniquely qualified to run the rule over the talents of the duo, who played under him at Randwick.

Dwyer, the Randwick president, has been a sounding board for Jones and Cheika as their coaching careers have developed while another former coach of the famous Galloping Greens, Jeffrey Sayle, who passed away just over two weeks ago, was another important influence.

The ties that bind Cheika and Jones were clearly evident as they spoke of the loss they felt after Sayle's death. 

At his funeral in Sydney last week, Dwyer said in his eulogy to a packed church that Sayle provided the laughter to ensure they all remembered that rugby is also about having fun.

"I coached Jeffrey, Eddie and Cheik at the club," Dwyer said. "I was more convinced about Eddie going into coaching because he was a much more experienced player while Cheik was a young firebrand who had come on to the scene.

"When I finished coaching at Randwick, Cheik was still a young player and then when he applied for the Leinster job he asked for a reference and I said in it: 'I see no reason why one day Michael Cheika won't coach Australia.'

"The most significant cross-over between Jeffrey and the way Eddie and Cheik coach is the essential element of enjoyment in what you are doing.

"Eddie and Cheik's personal pride and their individual drive is fantastic and they do (the head coach role) in slightly different ways. Eddie is so brutal at times that you could be thinking 'is he taking the mickey out of me here?' but he is being truthful.

"You then know where you stand and in a team development situation there isn't time to waste on niceties. Straightforward and honest is an accurate description of Cheik and with Eddie that is probably understating it."

Sayle was the Randwick coach in 1988 but missed the All Blacks match because he was seriously ill in hospital. John Quick, who coached Japan at Rugby World Cup 1987, took charge and asked Dwyer to address the Randwick players - including a spiky hooker called Jones and a young number eight with a white headband called Cheika.

New Zealand won 25-9 that day but All Black legends Sean Fitzpatrick – who was opposite Jones – and Buck Shelford, who went head to head with Cheika, discovered that Randwick, featuring the likes of David Campese, Ewen McKenzie and Simon Poidevin, were no ordinary team.

Dwyer has been impressed with the way Japan have played to reach the knockout stages and believes Jones should get some of the praise, along with Brave Blossoms coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown. Dwyer said it was Jones who changed Japan's mindset for the 2015 Cup campaign that included the historic win over South Africa in Brighton.

"I have told the coaches at Randwick that here (Japan at RWC 2019) is a lesson for all of them about how to play rugby," Dwyer said. 

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Despite closely following the careers of Jones and Cheika, Dwyer will be supporting only one team on Saturday.

"My hopes are 100 per cent on Australia," he said. "I like Eddie a lot and admire him and any time he wants to talk I am always available.

"However, I was approached to coach another country many years ago and in the end I said I couldn't do because if we played Australia I would be absolutely torn.

"Nothing would make me go against Australia."

Randwick videos courtesy of Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club

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