Eddie Jones fires first in verbal stoushing
YEAR-END SPOTLIGHT: England head coach Eddie Jones has begun the countdown to this week’s Twickenham Test against his native Australia in a typically robust manner.
Since the former Wallabies and Japan head coach switched allegiance to England following the 2015 World Cup his adopted country has recorded seven consecutive wins over his former team.
The most recent of these took the form of an emphatic 40-16 success in the 2019 World Cup quarter-final, and Jones is keen to extend the winning sequence against the below-strength tourists.
Dave Rennie’s Wallabies conceded plenty of penalties during this past Sunday’s narrow defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield, with retirement-bound French official Romain Poite in particular finding regular fault with a front row badly disrupted by injury.
And Jones was quick to probe the refereeing angle during his most recent press conference when he responded to a question about what he expected from Australia by heaping praise on next Saturday’s referee Jaco Peyper.
“The breakdown against Australia is going to be brutal,” he said. “Rennie’s teams are always renowned for being exceptional at the breakdown, so we are lucky we have got the best referee in the world next Saturday in Jaco Peyper, who is particularly very good in that breakdown area. We are going to get a great contest.”
An Australian side already without three key Japan-based players, including influential midfielders Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi, now face a six-day turnaround before facing England where head coach Dave Rennie believes they will need to find significant performance improvement.
“We defended really well, we created multiple turnovers when Scotland had a lot of possession, hence the reason the score was close,” he said.
“We’ve got more in us. We certainly need to be a lot better and we need to be a lot better against England.”
“We didn’t play anywhere near as well as we’d like to. We’ve got to be able to build pressure for longer, and we got pinged [penalised] a bit in possession for cleaning out and various other things – we’ve got to make some shifts there.”
England will be boosted by the return of captain Owen Farrell whose Friday COVID-19 test result has been confirmed as a false positive.
Bath flank Sam Underhill left the field at half-time during last weekend’s win over Tonga, but otherwise Jones has few fitness concerns away from his long-term absentee list.
In contrast, Australia left Edinburgh with a few concerns.
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Jordan Petaia is expected to miss the rest of the tour following a hamstring injury, while giant tighthead Taniela Tupou left the field with a concussion.
This loss began the Wallabies’ scrum concerns, and unsurprisingly Rennie is hoping the 135kg prop is able to line up at Twickenham.
“He’s fine at the moment, so he’s got enough time to be available for next week, but obviously he has to go through fair protocols and find out later in the week if he’s available, Australia’s head coach said.”
Rennie declined to make a public comment on his side’s scrum issues against Scotland.
“I thought it was a bit of a mess,” he said.
“We’ll give feedback directly to the referees. It’s a tough area to adjudicate – as happens every week around scrum, obviously didn’t agree with a number of the decisions.”
By Paul Smit, RugbyPass