Wallabies coach Michael Cheika bit back at Eddie Jones’ early barbs on day one of their final Test week, but the Australian mentor admitted talk meant little in the bigger picture.
Asked whether he believed the media battle had been pivotal in the series result in June, when Cheika let Jones take a vocal lead, the Wallabies coach said ultimately it wasn’t the deciding factor.
“You saw from my reaction in June, I don’t think that’s the way to play it, myself,” he said.
“Not if you’re going against your old [country] - I think you can still be fiercely determined to win, don’t get me wrong at all but that’s just my way,” - Michael Cheika
“If he wants to play it that way, that’s totally fine with me as well, he’s doing whatever he needs but does it help winning or losing?
“I would think that if you spoke to any of the English players who are playing on the day they won 3-0 in Australia they would like to think it was their skills and their ability that got them over the line and not the other stuff."
“I certainly wouldn’t want my players to think I was winning them games off the field.”
It’s not just the coaches who have been in the firing line, with both sides levelling accusations of illegality at their opponents’ scrums on Monday.
Jones was quick to criticise the Australia scrum after Saturday’s win over Argentina, suggesting there were illegalities in the Wallabies’ techniques, a suggestion Cheika bristled at on Monday, pointing the finger at England tighthead Dan Cole, whose technique has been the subject of discussion for months.
"We scrum square, Cheika said.
"We’ve got an Argentinian scrum coach and all we do is scrum square and try to get as much weight as possible.
"It’s very obvious from the clips, if you wanted to watch them instead of all the vitriol that goes around, if you really look at the clips properly they’ll tell you the story." - Michael Cheika
England's Cole was yellow-carded in England's win over Argentina and back in June, former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyerhit out at Cole's scrummaging technique, suggesting his angle was illegal.
“I think the important thing there to note is that he’s got to be looking at his own players because they’re the ones who have got...a prop with a yellow card and that same prop’s been infringing the law since his career started probably if not all of this year,” he said.
“If he thinks that the refs are that naïve to take the strategy ‘well if he has a go at our scrum they’ll forget about his guy,’ well that’s up to the ref.
“That’s not up to me. Nothing I can say can make a difference about that.
“It’s up to the ref whether he gets influenced by that, really, after the guy’s been boring in and falling down all of June in the series that we played against them and that’s his tactic.
“If he thinks that me saying something back about that is going to change the referee’s mind well that’s totally up to the ref. I don’t think the ref should be influenced like that anyway.”
England scrum coach Neil Hatley lauded Cole’s scrummaging technique in response to Cheika, saying he had only had ‘positive feedback’ from referees.
“Coley’s one of the most respected tightheads in the world, I thought he was absolutely outstanding, has been outstanding, so far he’s been great for his club,” he said.
“On his day, there’s not many better. I think he scrummages perfectly well and what I’ve seen from him in camp and what we’ve seen from him in the Wales game prior to the Australia series as well, when people were having a go at him, he just kept his head down and reproduced that form.
"He’s been a cornerstone of that Leicester pack that’s done so well for years and he’s been a cornerstone of the English pack for a long time and will continue to be.
"We get great feedback from all the referees and have had in the last 8-10 months on about how we try and scrummage, we’ve had really good feedback from all the referees that we speak to afterwards in terms of our scrum."
Hatley wouldn't expand on any specific areas that they had identified as a target in the Walllabies scrum when asked.
Refereeing played a crucial role in the sides’ June series, with the protocol around pre-game meetings and Cheika said if Jones went through with another this week with Jaco Peyper, he’d be likely to accept the invitation, after signalling a desire to take his frustrations over a lopsided penalty count in last week’s Ireland Test to referee boss Alain Rolland.
"How could I refuse an invitation from the great man?," he said.
:He’s running IRB now, he’s organising the meetings for the refs and for Australian teams and everything like that.
"It’s funny how your tune changes because in the summer when we asked for those meetings he was blowing up, he stormed out of one."
Australia takes on England on Sunday, kicking off at 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on SBS and beIn Sport 3 (Foxtel 515).