Intelligence: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.
It’s a word many of us use and has been defined in many different ways including one’s capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, planning, creativity and problem solving.
It is a word that is vitally important to Eddie Jones and his relentless pursuit to make England the number one team in the world.
“If a plant doesn’t get sunshine and water it doesn’t grow,” said Jones, who was speaking in his role as a Mitsubishi Motors ambassador.
“Players are the same; they need new ideas and variety to grow. If you keep doing the same thing, you won’t improve.”
England are two years into their four-year plan to become the number one team in the world and ultimately win the 2019 Rugby World Cup. In 21 games under Jones, there is just one blot in his copybook.
Helping produce a group that have capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, planning who can problem solve and that are creative will, Jones believes, help them achieve their ultimate goal.
“We need to move the ball with intelligence and defend with intelligence which belies the fact that rugby is seen as a brutally physical game,” he said.
“Underneath the physicality is the importance of players making intelligent decisions. Whether they have the ball in their hands or the opposition do, they have to make a decision.”
England recently returned from a 2-0 series victory over Argentina and Jones saw further signs of them improving their decision making.
He cited an incident involving Gloucester wing Jonny May from that series.
“When you see players make better decisions it’s a great part of coaching,” he said.
“Take Jonny May for example. We had turnover ball, he got the ball and put in a lovely left foot grubber that took us 15 metres to the corner, he made the tackle to put the player into touch and we scored a line-out maul.
“He made a great decision. Maybe 12 months ago he wouldn’t have done that.”
In his time as head coach the side have won the Six Nations twice and also sealed series victories away in Australia and Argentina.
However, to avoid complacency Jones and his coaching team work tirelessly off the pitch to keep the squad on their toes.
“Each week we try and do something different,” he said. “Whether that be in the schedule structure, training content or the way we present information to the players.
“We spend a lot of our time as coaches designing ways to stimulate the players and to make our programme the best.
“We’ll set up meetings that look like they’re going to be run by us and not turn up so the players have to run the meeting themselves, work through the video and make decisions for themselves.”
Problem solving and learning
Jones, who has coached in Australia, South Africa and Japan has previously said his aim is to make his role as head coach redundant and for the team to run itself.
And he comes up with a number of different ways for the players to think for themselves.
“We’ve done things like purposely get buses not to turn up and take players to where they need to be so they can work it out for themselves because we want them to be self-reliant.”
He added: “In training we create situations where we don’t tell the players the purpose of the game as we want them to work it out for themselves and very quickly adapt.”
Planning and understanding
Jones has also created strong leadership in his squad, urging them to feel comfortable in challenging, communicating as well sharing ideas.
“Instead of me telling them how we’re going to play against Argentina, we show them visuals of Argentina, break them into groups of four or five and then they’ll have to analyse and present to the rest of the players about what they think are the ways to beat Argentina.”
Ultimately he wants an intelligent team that can adapt to changes in a game, whether that be opposition, officiating or weather.