Eddie Jones’ hunger persuaded South Africa scrum guru Matt Proudfoot to switch sides over lunch date: ‘He told me he wants England to be the best team the world has ever seen… I went home and told my wife we’re moving’
- Eddie Jones persuaded South Africa scrum guru Matt Proudfoot to join England
- South Africa dominated the scrums against England in the World Cup final
- Proudfoot was the coach behind it so Jones set up a lunch meeting with him
- He said the England coach’s hunger was what convinced him to switch sides
Jones was in autopsy mode. How had England lost the World Cup final? Why did things go so wrong? Who can move the team forward? It all came back to the scrum. The Springboks had dominated the set piece in the final and Proudfoot was the coach behind it.
Jones persuaded Proudfoot to meet for lunch and by the end of the meal the South African had agreed to join the England coaching team.
Eddie Jones persuaded South Africa scrum guru Matt Proudfoot to join England over lunch
‘We met in a hotel out in the country and had an unbelievable conversation about rugby,’ said Proudfoot. ‘Eddie said he wants England to be the best team the world has ever seen — that is enough. When the boss says that, you are either in or out. He said to me, “Would you be interested in it?” We shook hands, I got home to my wife and said, “We’re moving”. It all came really quickly.’
Last week, Proudfoot arrived at England’s camp in Portugal armed with a mental dossier.
The Springboks spent hours analysing the England scrum before the final and named six forwards on the bench — including a full front-five — to bring a second wave of power. They capitalised on an injury to Kyle Sinckler and starved England of the solid platform that had launched their attacks to cut open the All Blacks.
‘As a South Africa pack, we had to have a go because the style of rugby England were playing was unbelievable,’ said Proudfoot.
South Africa dominated the scrums against England in the World Cup final back in November
‘We knew that our only opportunity to get a foothold in the game was there. We watched that All Blacks semi-final and I could see on the faces of the players they knew what was coming. They knew that if we didn’t start hard, there would be no chance.
‘The plan was to shut England out because if you gave them the game they would rip you to pieces. Take their momentum away. The scrum is the start of it all. We understood the importance of the scrum as a Springbok team growing up. You can never win a rugby game if your scrum is going backwards.’
But Proudfoot, who played four Tests for Scotland, does not believe the England scrum is in need of a radical overhaul. Dan Cole is no longer a part of the team but Sinckler, Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler have maintained their Test status and Proudfoot believes England’s front row can still become the best in the world.
‘I still feel for Kyle about the final,’ said Proudfoot. ‘My first conversation with him was about that. He’d had such a good tournament that he probably could have been world player of the year as a tighthead — that’s how great his tournament was — so it had to have a negative effect on the team psyche.
Proudfoot said he was sold by Jones’ ambition to make England the best team in the world
‘He’s great now. Kyle’s Kyle. When I arrived at Pennyhill, we actually stopped next to each other. He gave me a big hug. Kyle has got a big belief in what he wants to be and I find that so exciting.
‘I told him I want him to be the best in the world and what does he feel the best in the world looks like? That conversation is still happening.
‘I don’t want to put a player in a box. I think it is very disrespectful, me telling someone what they are and what they are not. How can I make him the best in the world? What does he need from me? Does he need a kick up the butt? What does he need every day?
‘I’m not going to stop until he’s the best in the world.’