I think it works best when young players come in and have to earn their way. He was almost thrown in quite early.
James would be the first to admit he was a bit opinionated for a younger player. But I noticed in Toulon his willingness to learn.
There was a strong core of senior players and James had the ability to learn good habits and work out the bad ones. That time there taught him a lot. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. If you have both, you can be unstoppable.
He understands the game more now. Early on he wanted to play 10, fullback, 12. Now he understands where he’s best suited within a team.
And he’s at a place now where he understands what he did wrong. The only way we can learn is from our mistakes and that’s how we get better. He’s developed a lot as a person – more team-oriented, more level as a guy.
I think James has come back knowing he’s taking a pay cut. He has done it before. In 2015, he came back and took a huge pay cut to make the World Cup when he played for Queensland.
This time he’s at a different stage of his career. He’s a better player than he was in 2015.
Now I think he’s more focused. He went through a rough patch with injuries too. When something is taken away from you, you realise how much you miss it. When he wasn’t able to play at his level, that frustrated him. Now he’s back playing at a level he wants to be at, you can see he’s enjoying rugby and enjoying training hard and seeing the benefits.
It would be a waste if he didn’t get another opportunity – for him and Australian rugby.
He’s got a partner who has been with him since he was 16 and keeps him grounded and his parents have been really good for him.
If there is any reluctance in Australia to welcome him back, that would be from previous James. I think a lot still see him as that 23-year-old who worried about his ‘brand’. He’s not that same guy.
AUSSIE FANS WILL LOVE JAPAN
Every day in Japan I see something that blows my mind.
I was on the way home yesterday and came to an intersection with no cars around. The lights were green and there was a guy standing at the intersection just sprinting on the spot. People were just walking past him.
I was thinking, do I get my phone out here? Is this abnormal? Every day there’s something like that.
Australian rugby fans coming here for the World Cup are going to love the place.
The Japanese people love to show off their country and they want you to have the best experience. The people are just so kind and generous. If I’m lost and people can’t understand me, I’ll show them on the phone and they’ll walk me to another place to make sure I know where I’m going.
I was on a train recently and it was very busy. I was searching through my bag and put my passport down on a seat next to me while I did it. I grabbed my bag and left my passport, credit card, visa and a fair bit of cash I had taken out for a shinkansen ticket on the seat.
It wasn’t until 10 minutes later, walking away from this busy train in Tokyo I realised I lost it all – I rang the translator at the club to tell them what train I was on. Within 30 minutes it was back at the place that I left from, not a thing touched.
It almost looked like someone had cleaned the passport.
It’s so safe and friendly. It’s really going to be a great atmosphere and tournament and I just hope we’re hugely successful. The ideal final for me will be Japan v Australia. The further Japan go, the bigger this tournament will get. You only have to see how well they went last time and their last game had something like 20 million viewers.
They beat South Africa last time and they were probably underestimated a little bit. I don’t think that will happen again.
It will be a tough challenge but they’ve put a lot of money into their local competition now and the quality is getting deeper and deeper.