Jones still smarting at 'no-ruck' Italy

AFP
by AFP

England may be on the brink of equalling a world record and within sight of retaining their Six Nations title but coach Eddie Jones was in an oddly chippy mood on Thursday.   

Victory over Scotland in Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham will see England draw level with world champions New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test wins by a 'tier one' or leading rugby union nation.
   
Jones has overseen 16 of those 17 consecutive victories and has won all his matches as England coach since taking charge following the team's first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup. 
   
Yet the fall out from their most recent success, a 36-15 win at home to Italy a fortnight ago, clearly still irked the Australian. 
   
Jones was angered by Italy's 'no ruck' ploy which left his team utterly bemused in a first half that finished with the visitors' enjoying a shock 10-5 lead.
Eddie Jones was frustrated by the Italians tactics in their last Six Nations match. Photo: Getty Images.England eventually got their act together in a second half where they scored five tries.
   
But, immediately after the match, that didn't stop Jones comparing Italy's tactics to underarm bowling in cricket and saying referee Romain Poite had looked "flustered".
   
But when it was gently suggested to Jones, in a news conference broadcast live on Thursday, that ideally his players would react more quickly if confronted again with more unusual tactics, he bristled at the suggestion they had been out-smarted by Italy.   
   
"There was someone confused in the first half and it wasn't our players," said Jones, in another apparent reference to Poite. 

"A hundred percent I thought that we dealt with it fantastically well," added Jones, who also cancelled his usual separate pre-match briefing for national newspapers.

Jones, speaking at England's Bagshot training base, southwest of London, responded to a question about possible Scottish innovation by implicitly renewing his post-match criticism of Italy coach Conor O'Shea.

"Scotland's a well-coached side and Vern Cotter is a good rugby coach so they will participate in the spirit of the game." - Eddie Jones.   

Earlier this week several newspapers suggested powerhouse back-row Billy Vunipola might go straight back into the starting XV following a knee injury after his name appeared in what looked to be a team line-up on a whiteboard by the side of a practice pitch.

Vunipola, however, was among the replacements come Thursday's team announcement by Jones, with Nathan Hughes retaining the No 8 shirt.

"The Daily Telegraph picked him for us and we decided we'd change our minds!," joked Jones.

But while Jones could be forgiven for having fun over Vunipola's position, his comments regarding an injury to first-choice goal-kicker Owen Farrell were bizarre.

Farrell, named at inside centre, was withdrawn from England's final training session on Thursday after receiving treatment for a leg injury.

Jones 'jokingly' tried to explain the injury by saying Farrell had run into his dog.

Things became even more curious when, within moments of saying Farrell was "doubtful" to face Scotland, Jones added he would be "alright" for the game.

"Owen could be a doubt. He's got a bad leg, so he couldn't finish training. 

He'll be alright," Jones said.

"My dog was running around and he ran into it."
Eddie Jones is adamant that Owen Farrell will be ok to play despite suffering a leg injury at training. Photo: Getty Images.When it was pointed out to Jones he had just given conflicting answers, he snapped back: 

"Yeah, but I think he'll be alright. Is that OK?"

Jones, asked about possible alternatives, insisted: "We've got plenty of back-ups.

"Ben Te'o can play 12, he's an exceptional player. 

There's no risk for us.

"We've got some great goal kickers - George Ford."

England have yet to find themselves ahead at half-time this Six Nations but an unconcerned Jones said: 

"We've been ahead at the 80th minute mark and that's the only time that counts. 

"It's like starting a 100 metre race - you can be ahead at the 10-metre mark but you've got to be in front at the 100-metre mark."

England host Scotland at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday morning, kicking off at 3:00am AEDT, LIVE on BeIn Sports 3.

TEAM

England team to play Scotland:

1. Joe Marler

2. Dylan Hartley (capt)

3. Dan Cole

4. Joe Launchbury

5. Courtney Lawes

6. Maro Itoje 

7. James Haskell

8. Nathan Hughes

9. Ben Youngs

10. George Ford

11. Elliot Daly

12. Owen Farrell

13. Jonathan Joseph

14. Jack Nowell 

15. Mike Brown          

Reserves: 

16. Jamie George 

17. Mako Vunipola 

18. Kyle Sinckler 

19. Tom Wood 

20. Billy Vunipola 

21. Danny Care 

22. Ben Te'o 

23. Anthony Watson

Scotland team to play England:

1. Gordon Reid

2. Fraser Brown

3. Zander Fagerson

4. Richie Gray

5. Johnny Gray

6. John Barclay (capt)

7. Hamish Watson

8. Ryan Wilson

9. Ali Price

10. Finn Russell

11. Tim Visser 

12. Alex Dunbar

13. Huw Jones

14. Tommy Seymour

15. Stuart Hogg

Reserves: 

16. Ross Ford 

17. Allan Dell 

18. Simon Berghan 

19. Tim Swinson 

20. Cornell du Preez 

21. Henry Pyrgos 

22. Duncan Weir 

23. Mark Bennett

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