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27th Oct 2023

Felix Jones on his journey with South Africa and targeting a second World Cup

Ryan Grace

The Springboks coaching box is ‘loud’, ‘vibrant’, and ‘intense’ says Jones ahead of another World Cup final.

The story of former Ireland international Felix Jones is a remarkable one indeed.

In October 2015 he was forced to retire and end his playing career prematurely due to a neck injury.

Eight years on, he’s 80 minutes of rugby away from a second World Cup medal as a coach.

South Africa assistant coach Felix Jones (Credit: Getty Images)

In an unlikely turn of events, Felix Jones received a phone call many could only ever dream of; the opportunity to help coach the Springboks.

He went on to help South Africa to a third World Cup title in Japan in November 2019, beating England in the final in Yokohama.

In the weeks that followed, Felix Jones spoke on House of Rugby about Japan and that life-changing phone call from head coach Rassie Erasmus. “I met the [squad] in Japan, about a week or so after, then was straight in the following day, in training then in presenting the next day and saying, ‘This is how we stop Japan’.”

You can remind yourself of that conversation in 2019 [from 26:30 below] here:

Felix Jones looking to make it two from two

Fast-forward four years and Jones finds himself in a very similar situation, helping to lead South Africa to another World Cup final.

Standing in there way is an All Blacks team who hadn’t really announced themselves at this tournament until beating Ireland in the quarter-finals.

The two face off at the Stade de France on Saturday. Defending champions South Africa looking to go back-to-back. New Zealand looking to make it three World Cup titles in the last four tournaments.

South Africa narrowly beat England in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Paris (Credit: Getty Images)

New horizons closer to home

Felix Jones was on media duty ahead of Saturday’s final.

He was asked how his role as assistant coach at South Africa has evolved over the past four years.

“I think initially when I first came in there was a lot of familiarity with how things had been done because it was Rassie [Erasmus], Jacques [Nienaber] and Aled Walters at the time. It was quite a quick transition and there were a lot of similarities. I think they were expecting me to do similar things as I was doing in Munster when we were all together. Slotting in was very straight forward and from there because it has been over four years now I think it’s naturally taking on other responsibilities.

“Trying to figure out what is actually going to make the team operate better. I’d say it is more organic the way things have done and you’re always trying to improve things.”

“There are certain parts [of my coaching] that have definitely changed my view. I think before, and I think it’s shared by people who have had a similar rugby upbringing in terms of where and how, collision winning is a skill. I think it can be considered as it’s just people hitting things but there is a huge amount that goes into winning a collision.”

Despite enjoying huge success at the Springboks camp, Felix Jones is set to join the England set-up after the World Cup.

“I’m an assistant coach so between myself, Richard (Wigglesworth) and Steve (Borthwick) that will all get sorted out. I’d rather not go into that with a big game at the weekend.”

Depending on how things go in Paris this weekend, Steve Borthwick could be welcoming a man with two World Cup final victories plus a series victory over the British & Irish Lions in 2021 on his CV.

BRENT POPE & SENE NAOUPU ON HOUSE OF RUGBY

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