Six Nations: England’s honest sessions and Eddie Jones’ new focus on psychology

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones described psychology in modern Test Rugby as the best method to improve team performance.
Venue:Stade Olimpico in Rome Date:Sunday, 13 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Live audio and text commentary at BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport website.

Italy is rarely seen as vulnerable by England.

Eddie Jones has coached them three times against the Azzurri, scoring 17 tries, 40 points per game, and a trio emphatic wins.

Only once has the chariot wheel wobbled in the land of ancient Romans. Treviso, 2019.

Jones' meticulously planned plans fell apart a little more than a month before Rugby World Cup.

Verbal sparring escalated into full-blown fighting during a team bonding evening. After the altercation, Mike Brown (full-back) and Ben Te'o (centre) were sent home by Jones.

The tensions did not go away, though. The training camp was full of emotional pain as well as lactic pain.

“It looked like our World Cup preparations would explode at one point in Italy,” Jones told the Magic Academy podcast of that period. external-link

“Players were fighting because they had open wounds and didn't know how it was to deal with them,” said one player. The wounds healed quickly and the infections were sorted.

Corinne Reid had applied the antiseptic.

Reid is not interested in rugby. She doesn't really care about sport.

“But, I know people,” she said to BBC Sport.

“I am a specialist in understanding how systems and groups function when they work well. I also know what breaks them down.”

The Australian is a clinical psychologist. She began her career as a child protector, dealing with the strong emotions of small children living in difficult situations.

A conversation over lunch more that a quarter century ago launched her into another sphere.

Ric Charlesworth was the other side of the table. He was just starting to coach the Australian women's hockey team. He was determined to change the way psychology is used in sport.

It was quite literal at the time. Psychologists advised players to visualize scoring the winning points and focus on the feeling of a good tackle. Charlesworth or Reid wanted to do more.

She said, “At the highest level of the best in the world, if that's not already nailed, you're in trouble.”

“While there are still practitioners who work in this traditional manner, I see it as a system challenge. How can you get an ecosystem to perform at its best when you have extreme pressure, real complexity and extreme people?

Corinne Reid
Reid has been with many teams for more than 20 years.

“We thought about the best type of leadership, how to set new standards, and how coaches could be effective from behind.

“It was quite unusual for a psychologist to do this type of work at that time.”

These results were also quite astonishing. Reid was on board and Australia's women won Olympic hockey gold in Atlanta 1996. They also successfully defended their title in Sydney 2000.

There were parallels, half-way around the globe, twenty years later.

Reid listened intently as Jones and Neil Craig (head of high-performance for Rugby Football Union) discussed their concerns regarding England's vulnerability in a Twickenham meeting room.

It had appeared a few months before. England had not allowed a 31-point lead lapse. in a desperate 38-38 draw in their final Six Nations match against Scotland.

Jones believed the root was deeper back.

Reid had prepared Australia's hockey team to face the pressure of being the home favourites at Sydney 2000. However, England was eliminated from the pool stage after they lost the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Jones was determined to get rid of any hangovers or hang-ups that may have remained after his traumatic experience.

Reid wanted Reid to first be aware of the questions he was asking.

“Eddie seemed very curious, open and interested in the best we could do together,” she stated.

“We had to give him an understanding of the work – it is about who you are and what type of relationships you can build.

“This will upset people. Some people may become mad, cry, or walk out.

“Big moments” can stick with teams for good or for bad. They can be covered up until they are gone.

“It takes a courageous team, when the focus on being positive, upbeat and looking forward, for that baggage to be seen.

“And these guys were courageous.”

Billy Vunipola is one of them.

Billy Vunipola and Ben Curry
Billy Vunipola, (far right), credits Reid with bringing England closer during the build-up to 2019 Rugby World Cup.

During England's Rugby World Cup campaign, he said that being brutally honest could hurt a few emotions.

“Everything we felt or thought, it was just shared with the group. It was not without its bumps, and it did have some handbags. But it was great. Corinne gave us the platform.

In the wake of Reid’s sessions, handbags flew to Italy.

They didn't fall apart.

England, apparently united and invincible, reached the World Cup final via a stunning win over New Zealand before South Africa dominated them for the title.

Jones places high-priority on his priority list for synchronizing England's group dynamics.

Reid's Australian friend Andrea Furst is England’s current in-camp psychology. Norwegian Nashater Deu Solheim is an expert on persuasion communication and influence.

Jones has published a book on leadership. His England team appears to have more subcommittees within its ranks and steering groups than did the Soviet Politburo.

Jones stated, “The frontier of rugby where you get the most bangfor your buck is in creating a positive mindset for your players.”

Although the focus is still the same, the challenge is now different.

Reid was working alongside a team that was full of experience, caps and the pressure of a World Cup. This can make it difficult to change.

This England squad is different. Seventeen of the seven starters in Scotland's defeat had 10 caps or less. Some of the assumptions and old guard have been disregarded.

Reid stated that when there are many new faces in any group, it means that people feel more free and not tied down to certain roles or ways of being.

It allows for some flexibility and scope while they are still new. “In the first time, we don't understand what normal is.”

Jones was a winner for a long period. At the beginning of Jones' reign, England won seventeen consecutive Tests.

He is now heading to Italy to try to get that perfect blend of passion, politics, and people behind every great team.

Banner Image Reading Around the BBC - BlueFooter - Blue

Leave a Comment