Eddie Jones isn't shy of letting people know what he thinks and he has again thrown a few verbal barbs before England face Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday
England head coach Eddie Jones believes Irish supporters are entitled to be upset by Andy Farrell’s “United Nations” selection policy with a third of Ireland’s starting team hailing from the Southern Hemisphere.
After announcing four changes from the side that defeated Georgia 40-0, Jones also suggested that referee Pascal Gaüzère pay close attention to Ireland tighthead Andrew Porter’s “unusual” scrummaging technique. Props Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler as well as flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry all return to the staring XV for tomorrow’s pivotal Autumn Nations Cup clash at Twickenham against what Jones bills as the “best poaching team in the world.”
Yet compliments were balanced by provocative barbs with regards to Ireland head coach Farrell selecting five “project players” who qualified through World Rugby three-year residency rule. Centre Bundee Aki, wing James Lowe and scrum half Jamison Gibson-Park were all born in New Zealand while forwards CJ Stander and Quinn Roux are from South Africa.
“I heard someone calling them the United Nations, mate, so I had a little chuckle,” Jones said. “Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Simon Easterby are just selecting the team they are allowed under the regulations. I can understand how Irish people would be upset about Irish-born players missing out. But they are the laws and regulations of international rugby; they are just sticking by the regulations.”
Jones also has no qualms in selecting foreign-born players in Manu Tuilagi, Joe Cokanasiga, Mako and Billy Vunipola – although all four grew up in the United Kingdom – and previously fast-tracked Kiwi centre Ben Te’o into the team.
James Lowe is one of five Ireland players set to face England who qualified through World Rugby three-year residency rule
Against Ireland, playmaker George Ford is among the replacements with Jones keeping faith in the backline that struggled for fluency in the rain against Georgia. Jonathan Joseph was passed fit to play on the wing while two-cap centre Ollie Lawrence retains his place against a heavyweight Ireland midfield pairing of Chris Farrell and Aki.
England have won their last three fixtures against Ireland. Their back-to-back victories in 2019 punctured the aura that had built up around Joe Schmidt’s team who finished the previous year ranked No.1 in the world. After another disappointing World Cup campaign, Ireland have rebuilt momentum under Farrell and last week crushed Wales 32-9.
Jones, however, warned that they will need to step up another level coming to Twickenham.
“As their coaching staff said, they were dominant, so the challenge is can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham?” Jones said. “I know Andy Farrell very well, they will be well-prepared and they’ll come to Twickenham with a point to prove, which always makes them dangerous. Eighteen months ago they were ranked number one in the world so it shows you the class and ability of this team. We know we’ve got to be at our best to get the result we want to get.”
Central to England’s previous victories has been their physical dominance of the gainline and scrum. Both England and Ireland’s scrums impressed in their opening matches of the Autumn Nations Cup, although Jones was keen to highlight tighthead Porter’s technique to the match officials.
“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,” Jones said.
“We’ll need to be adaptable to his calls on it, it’s no use scrummaging if you can’t get a result out of it. But they’ve got a good scrum, Healy’s played 100 caps at loosehead, so he’s got to be hugely respected. He’s (Porter) done really well, he’s taken to Test rugby well, scrums in a fairly unusual way which may need some referee intervention there, so we’ll wait and see.”
After their opening round victories, this match is likely to determine who finishes top of Group A and a place in the main final, which Jones says adds an extra incentive to the usual round of autumn fixtures.
“It’s a different format, every game counts because it puts you in a situation where you’re playing on the last weekend in the main game or in the under-10s kick off time so you want to be in the main game and that’s where we’re aiming to be.”