EDDIE Jones’ new England rugby union coaching recruit Jon Clarke says he will continue to support Warrington Wolves when he can.

And that is typical of a man who has devoted much of his sporting career to The Wire, going beyond the call of duty in the process.


After 14 years with Wolves as a player and conditioning chief – broken by a four-season spell with Widnes Vikings - the 39-year-old is now two weeks into his new job in the 15-a-side code.

A week’s camp in Portugal with the national squad was followed by Clarke’s first matchday experience in the new role when England played South Africa at Twickenham Stadium at the weekend, to be followed by a clash with the New Zealand All Blacks this Saturday.


Jon Clarke watches as Owen Farrell, son of Clarke's former Wigan teammate Andy Farrell, kicks a penalty for England against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

It is exciting times for the sport, the national side and Clarke going into a world cup year, but the former hooker revealed his heart will never be far away from a club that helped to shape him into the man he is today.

And with having a special bond with everyone at the club, including head coach Steve Price and his family, he will still be seen at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on a fairly regular basis as a supporter.

“I’ll be there in the background to lend support and help if Pricey needs it. I know he’ll be there for me if I need it at some stage in my job as well,” said Clarke, who originally joined The Wire from London Broncos 17 years ago.

READ: Clarke sees Wolves as number one Super League club

“Although I won’t be there officially, I’ll still be a huge supporter of the club from a bit more of a distance.

“I’m not moving from Warrington, which means I can come and watch the games on a Friday night and enjoy them.

“When I’ve got time, I’ll be down and supporting the lads as normal. I can probably sit back and have a beer and watch the game rather than being on the sideline getting my ears bashed on the head phones.”


Jon Clarke chats with Wolves head coach Steve Price prior to the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford last month. Picture: Mike Boden

Clarke and Price hit it off pretty quickly after the new Wire head coach’s arrival at the club 12 months ago.

“He knew nothing about me and I knew nothing about him,” said Clarke, a two-times Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield winner in 263 senior appearances with The Wire.

“From his point of view, he quickly got to know what I was about in terms of having the view “I’ve got to help the club be successful” and I quickly worked out he was very much along the same lines.

“He’s got a team-first, club-first mentality, sometimes to the detriment of our families.

“We put the club first, but that’s what we do and that’s why we became really good friends and that’s why we’ll remain really good friends despite me leaving.

“I’ll always be there to lend support to him if he needs me, and I know he’ll be there for me along the way if I need a bit of advice or his thoughts on stuff.

“We’ve got a great friendship. He’s got three girls, I’ve got two girls, and our kids are great friends. Our wives are great friends too.

“It’s probably made us even stronger by having a really strong relationship off the field and this year both of us were just prepared to do whatever it took to get things done.

“And if that meant working at 5am or late at night, or on a Sunday when everybody else is having family time, that’s what we did.”


Jon Clarke busy at work for Warrington Wolves during 2018. Picture: Mike Boden

The fairytale ending did not happen for Clarke and a number of departing players, with Wolves losing to Wigan in the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 13.

There was little time to shake off the heartbreak because after a short family holiday he took up his similar new role with England Rugby Union.

“It was straight in, but that’s just the way the schedules fell and to be honest I’d rather actually go straight in and then maybe have a little break after the autumn internationals,” he said.

“You’re in work mode and you just keep going.

“The role is similar. Obviously, it’s a different game, different players, and different things to weigh up in terms of England rugby union forwards and backs.

“Even within forwards, they are very different to how rugby league lads are and there’s a lot more positional differences so that’s something to weigh up and consider.

“The job’s all based around strength and conditioning and performance, and that integration with the coaches just as my job was at Warrington.

“When we’re in camp, I’ll be in camp full-time with the lads and looking after them.

“And when we’re not in camp, the role will involve visiting the clubs, building relationships at the clubs and checking on the England players to make sure they’re doing what they should do at their clubs.

“This could mean picking up little things with the players so that they’re in the best shape as possible for what is world cup year next year.

“That’s the big push internationally. There’s the autumn internationals, then it’s the six nations and then the back end of next year in October/November is the world cup in Japan.

“I think as a team England will be in Japan for nine to 10 weeks. We’ll play in different stadiums, experience different cultures and we’ll see a lot of Japan.

“The rugby union world cup is probably one of the biggest global events knocking around, and particularly in Japan where they are absolutely crazy for rugby union.

“To be a part of that and to have the opportunity to go and work in that was a huge selling point for me taking the job.”


Clarke has spoken a few times of how hard a decision it was to leave Warrington Wolves.

He added: “I wasn’t looking for a job, I was ready to stay at Warrington and this came out of the blue.

“It’s one of them opportunities in your life where it’s very difficult to turn down. To go and work in one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world – and in my line of work there isn’t many bigger jobs – it’s hard to turn down.

“Warrington didn’t want me to leave, and there was a big part of me that didn’t want to leave.

“Warrington Wolves chairman Stuart Middleton was very good with me. He said if this is financial we’ll make it happen, but if this is more about an opportunity and taking an opportunity he said he was a big believer in not letting opportunities go because they don’t come along very often.

“I’ve known Stuart for 20 years, he’s a great friend, he does a great job for the club and is so supportive.

“He had his chairman’s hat on but also had a 20-year friendship hat on as well. He talked to me about opportunities and risks he’d taken in life, and look where he is now in terms of his success. That’s a conversation I’ll always be grateful for in the long run.”

The door has been left open for Clarke to return one day.

“The chairman said there’ll always be a place at this club for me and I could never see myself working at another rugby league club,” he said.


At the start of his conditioning role with Warrington Wolves in 2015. Picture: Mike Boden