Rugby World Cup 2019: Eddie Jones set to leave England camp to fly back to Australia for friend’s funeral

Former Randwick player and coach Jeff Sayle passed away last Monday night, leading to Jones requesting permission from the RFU to fly back to Sydney on the eve of England's crucial pool match with France

Jack de Menezes
Tokyo
Saturday 05 October 2019 05:23
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Eddie Jones pays tribute to late friend Jeff Sayle

England head coach Eddie Jones is planning to leave Japan and fly to Australia just days before their crucial Rugby World Cup pool clash with France, in order to attend the funeral of close friend Jeff Sayle.

Randwick rugby legend Sayle passed away on Monday at the age of 77, which prompted tributes from Jones and other leading club alumni such as Wallabies boss Michael Cheika, David Campese and Simon Poidevin.

Jones spoke emotionally at the start of Thursday’s team announcement press conference to pay tribute to Sayle, who he played under at Randwick, and the pair remained close friends ever since.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Jones has requested permission from the Rugby Football Union to leave the camp before their final Pool C match against France to fly back to Australia, even though it could affect preparations for the World Cup match.

Jones confirmed that he was trying to put plans in place that would allow that, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that he was “trying to mate ... arranging now” and that he had been granted permission by the RFU.

England could go into the game needing to beat France to qualify for the last eight, depending on how their clash with Argentina goes this Saturday, and even if they beat the Pumas, it is likely that their game against the French will be a shootout for top spot in Pool C, with the winners poised to face Australia in the quarter-finals and runners-up taking on Wales.

It’s likely that Jones will leave Tokyo following Thursday afternoon’s team announcement press conference, which is scheduled for 4pm Japan Standard Time, though there is only one direct flight from Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport that would get Jones to Sydney for 9:30am AEDT the following morning.

Jones would then need to catch an overnight flight out of Sydney the same day in order to return to Tokyo in time for England’s potential Pool C decider against France, which kicks off at 5:15pm Japan Standard Time in Yokohama, which is a 25-minute drive or 40-minute commute by public transport from Haneda Airport.

It would mean that Jones would miss England’s captain’s run on Friday at the International Stadium Yokohama, and provisions would need to be put in place should Jones be held up by any delay, with assistants Steve Borthwick, John Mitchell and Scott Wisemantel leading the team in his absence.

However, the bulk of England’s pre-match training will still be overseen by Jones.

Eddie Jones has requested to leave the England camp to fly home for Jeff Sayle's funeral

The decision by Jones to fly back home for Sayle’s funeral is no surprise given the friendship they had, which showed in Thursday’s comments where Jones started his press conference by issuing an unprovoked statement.

“I'd just like to start today by paying a tribute to Jeff Sayle. He was a great mate of mine.”

After pausing for a few seconds as he choked up, Jones added: “It's very sad, a very sad day for rugby because he was a good person. He gave a lot to the game, to a number of players he coached and a number of teams he looked after. Even with England in 2016 he was the most welcome host. I remember going for a few beers with him at the Coojee Bay Hotel. Just a great fella and a real loss to the game.

“We've got to make sure we keep those characters in rugby because they're so important and it defines our game. We've seen at this World Cup the great enthusiasm and togetherness of the crowds, opposing teams but with great supports. It's a sad day for rugby.”

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