TOKYO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - England head coach Eddie Jones fought back tears on Thursday as he paid tribute to his former coach Jeff Sayle, who died on Monday.
Sayle, a one-cap Wallaby, was a longtime stalwart at Randwick, the famous club based in a seaside suburb of Sydney that produced Jones, Australia coach Michael Cheika and a host of top Australian talent.
Both Jones and Cheika, who are hoping to lead their teams to World Cup glory in Japan, also made their first steps into the world of coaching under the stewardship of Sayle at Randwick.
Jones chose to open his news conference by paying tribute to his friend.
“He was a great mate of mine. It’s very sad, a very sad day for rugby because he is a good person,” said Jones before taking a moment to compose himself.
“He gave a lot to the game – the number of players he coached, the number of teams he looked after.”
“Just a great fella and a real loss for the game. We have got to make sure we keep those players within rugby because it is so important and defines our game.”
Cheika also paid tribute to Sayle, who died aged 77, in an open letter posted on the Rugby Australia website on Tuesday.
“The news this morning hit me like brick. You did more for me that I can put into words but I’m going to give it a try,” wrote Cheika.
“You taught me, first and foremost, to love the game. You were always so positive about the game – you lived it, you bled it and you did a bloody good job.”
“You are Grassroots Rugby Sayle. Men like you will always make it succeed. And Australian Rugby is poorer today without you mate.”
Sayle was involved at Randwick for over 60 years and in 2001 was awarded Australia’s Centenary Medal, given to people who have made a contribution to Australian society, for services to rugby. (Reporting by Jack Tarrant Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)