England coach Eddie Jones stirs it up by targeting Ireland rookies and casting doubt on the legality of their scrum ahead of Twickenham clash
- England face Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham on Saturday
- Jones has named a powerful line-up including a heavily reinforced pack
- England will target inexperienced Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne
- Ireland have lost the last three encounters by an aggregate of 66 points
Eddie Jones was in vintage pre-match form on Thursday, turning the heat up on Ireland by addressing the legality of their scrum and their prospects of success at Twickenham on Saturday.
England’s head coach named a powerful line-up including a heavily reinforced pack to face Andy Farrell’s men in the Autumn Nations Cup and made a point of talking up the visitors.
But behind the smokescreen of praise for their coaches, global status and breakdown prowess, Jones enjoyed stirring the pot.
England coach Eddie Jones turned up the heat on Ireland ahead of Saturday’s showdown
He was asked to assess Ireland’s comfortable win over Wales in Dublin last Friday night and said: ‘As their coaching staff said, they were dominant, so the challenge is — can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham?’
Ireland have lost the last three encounters between these countries by an aggregate of 66 points, which justifies English optimism.
A key factor in the Irish eclipse of struggling Wales was their emphatic control of the set-piece battle, with Andrew Porter causing endless problems for the Welsh scrum.
Jonathan Joseph (above) continues on the wing, away from his familiar territory in midfield
However, Jones cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Leinster tighthead’s display, saying: ‘He’s taken to Test rugby well and scrums in a fairly unusual way, which may need some referee intervention.
‘The scrum contest is always challenging against Ireland. We’ve got a referee on the weekend who generally doesn’t reward dominant scrums, so it’ll be interesting to see how he looks at that area. But they’ve got a good scrum.’
Jones is a master at getting in the heads of opposition rookies and he hinted that his players will target Ireland’s inexperienced half-back pairing of Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne.
The Leinster duo will be tasked with directing operations in place of the familiar and formidable Conor Murray-Johnny Sexton axis — and England will be hell-bent on making it an uncomfortable experience.
‘Test match rugby is always about pressure,’ said Jones. ‘There’s pressuring the opposition to make mistakes and pressuring the opposition to think a bit differently.
Billy Vunipola is out of form but is retained at No 8 by Jones for the Ireland clash
‘Sometimes when you’ve got young players, they adapt really quickly, sometimes they don’t. We’ve got to be good enough to capitalise if they don’t — and if they adapt well we might have to play in some other area.’
England’s players and staff have emphasised over recent days how significant this fixture is to them and beyond the bland the-next-game-is-the-biggest mantra, Jones explained one reason why the rivalry really matters.
‘Every battle is a tough battle,’ he said. ‘We were going well and Ireland beat us for a Grand Slam in 2017. We’ll never forget that.’
The relaxed, smiling mind games hinted at his confidence.
England will target inexperienced half-back pairing of Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne