Jones and Cheika: old rivalry faces new test at Rugby World Cup

Oita (Japan) (AFP) –


Australian coaches Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika will renew a rivalry stretching back more than 30 years when Jones's England face the Wallabies in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final in Oita.

Both children of immigrants to Australia, Jones and Cheika played for the same Sydney club and have each led the Wallabies to defeat in a World Cup final as coaches.

Combative and outspoken the pair of them, Jones and Cheika grew up far removed from the snobbish environment of Australian rugby in the 1970s and 1980s -- then an insular game for mainly white, privately educated, schoolboys.

The American-born mother of Jones, 59, was the daughter of Japanese parents, while Cheika -- seven years younger -- is the son of Lebanese immigrants.

On the pitch, Jones got his break by playing in one of the most famous school matches in Australian history.

A Matraville High team featuring his childhood friends Gary and Mark Ella -- arguably the best indigenous player ever to represent the Wallabies -- beat St Joseph's, one of the country's leading rugby schools.

In the crowd was future Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer, then a stalwart of Randwick in Sydney, a club that had a reputation as a place where dustmen could play alongside doctors.

Dwyer brought Jones in as a hooker and Cheika joined the 'Galloping Greens' several years later as a back-row forward.

Both forwards represented New South Wales yet neither would win a Test cap for Australia, with Dwyer in charge when Jones was denied a Wallaby call-up.

- 'Miracle of Brighton' -

Many believe the lack of international recognition as players has fuelled their determination as coaches.

Jones came within 26 seconds of potentially winning the Webb Ellis Cup, his 2003 Wallaby side losing in extra time of the final to Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal.

He was later dumped by the Wallabies after a run of seven defeats in eight Tests -- a decision that hurt the former Brumbies boss and led to him offering his services to rival nations.

Consultant to a South Africa side that won the 2007 World Cup, Jones was in charge of the Japan team that beat the Springboks 34-32 in the 2015 'Miracle of Brighton' -- the greatest upset in the tournament's history.

Cheika had a hand in his old rival getting his current job when, at the same tournament, his Wallabies dumped England out of their own World Cup at the pool phase, leading to the departure of Stuart Lancaster and the hiring of Jones.

That year, Cheika took Australia all the way to the final, where they lost to New Zealand.

He is also the only coach to have won both the European Cup (with Irish province Leinster) and the equivalent southern Super Rugby title (with the New South Wales Waratahs).

- Sledge for Australia -

Jones has had the better of their recent encounters as coaches, winning all six of his Tests as England coach against Cheika's Australia, including a 3-0 series success Down Under in 2016.

The cricket-mad Jones is fond of pre-match verbal taunts that have led to suggestions he could "sledge" for Australia and he has often appeared to have wound up his counterpart deliberately before a Test.

The two coaches showed their emotions at the World Cup after the death of Randwick mentor Jeff Sayle, who received heartfelt eulogies from both men.

But the banter resumed when Jones suggested the "typhoon gods" were smiling on England after Typhoon Hagibis forced the cancellation of their tough pool match against France -- giving them two weeks to prepare for the quarter-final.

That prompted Cheika to snap: "They (England) have had the best preparation according to the coach, so they'd better go out there and win."

As if the stakes were not high enough already, defeat this weekend may well signal the end of the losing coach's time in charge.