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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Jones spouts fiction about Ireland

Schmidt points to illegal England scrum as a sign of changing times

Eddie Jones faces his biggest test this weekend as the England boss when they host
Ireland at Twickenham.
Eddie Jones faces his biggest test this weekend as the England boss when they host Ireland at Twickenham.

The honest-to-goodness Anglo-Saxon values of Stuart Lancaster have been replaced by the controversial connivance of Eddie Jones.

Where Ireland coach Joe Schmidt smothered Lancaster with kindness over the straight and square scrummaging of his England, there has already been a change of view on the new regime, albeit with most of the same players.

"We've had a good look at them and if you look at the 61st minute of England-Scotland, you can see a little bit of what's happening," said Schmidt.

Scotland had just blown their best chance of a try.

Finn Russell kicked when he should have passed to speedster Stuart Hogg with the home side trailing 12-6 in the 58th minute.

The next notable action comes from that scrum.

An overhead study of that set-piece reveals how England tight-head Dan Cole simply ignores the presence of replacement loose-head prop Gordon Reid to drive right across hooker Ross Ford.

It is a crystal clear penalty to Scotland.

Referee John Lacey, a former Munster wing, awards a penalty to the English and Owen Farrell makes it a two-score game.

The charge that Ireland's style resembles that of Aussie Rules, with Jones estimating they kick 60% of possession, doesn't stand up to even minimal scrutiny.

For example, eliminating the punts to touch, Ireland kicked the ball 19 times (or 23%) in their first Six Nations international; England kicked 18 times (36%).

Ireland kicked the ball 17 times (or 24%) against France, in what amounted to a storm; England kicked 25 times (or 36%) against Italy in far kinder conditions in Rome.

The frustration for Schmidt is that people say what they don't see.

Someone trots out a bare-faced fib, like Jones did with his 60% for Ireland's kicking when he knows England kicked more times and more as a percentage of the possession they win.

Will the wily old Australian's win-at-almost-all-costs approach take England where they so badly need to go?

It remains to be seen.

Ireland will be charged with giving them a test they have not yet had at Twickenham where England will play for the first time under Jones.

The consummate politician Schmidt has never shied away from building up the opposition, even Italy, to be something to be feared.

When it comes to the scrum set-piece, England are a force of size and strength, not necessarily technique.

"Both teams know each other really well," he said.

"I think Joe Marler and Mako Vunipola on the loose-head, they'd know our lads really well.

"On the other side, Dan Cole is such an institution in that scrum.

"Dylan Hartley, again, a strong scrummager, is very tough there and young Jamie George is going very well as well.

"So across their front row, we know that they're going to be tough and they get plenty of horsepower from the size and strength of the guys behind them."

For all of Jones's bluster, historically, he has already tried to move England on creatively.

This was best captured in their second try against Scotland when 19-stone prop Mako Vunipola's sleight of hand was the key to Jack Nowell's try.

The idea there was that the surprisingly skilful Vunipola had to be respected as a dynamic carrier, drawing in defenders before slipping the ball to Owen Farrell, who sent Nowell into the space created by a narrowing defence.

"There's definitely a tactical change," observed Schmidt.

"There's definitely different things that they're doing in the last two games as opposed to the last four years.

"(This is) a little bit frustrating because we kind of knew the shapes and the way that they played over the last few years.

"And sometimes you couldn't stop that anyway because they played very, very well."

Jones has been blessed with the distribution skills of his out-half and inside centre.

"George Ford and Owen Farrell are two of the best passers in world rugby," said Schmidt.

"To transition from one point of attack to another point of attack is something they can do quite seamlessly.

"They can do it with the threat of two incredibly elusive scrum-halves that have the passing game, but also the running game, that you can't leave them too early either."

Schmidt didn't stop there.

"The elusive ability of Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, they are very dangerous in that back sort of three and four.

"It doesn't really matter what shapes they play they're going to be dangerous anyway," he said.

"It's an exciting challenge, particularly on the back of us, you know, having a little bit of disappointment, particularly against France.

"We've played in patches as well as anyone has but we've got nothing to show for it really.

"We need to desperately try and get something on the scoreboard."

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