Jones makes light of NZ showdown, while Schmidt backs Payne

Super Rugby
by AAP

Eddie Jones has responded to the prospect of England facing New Zealand this year by joking that he would like the fixture to be staged straight after Saturday's match in Dublin.

The Rugby Football Union has approached the All Blacks with a view to staging a showdown at Twickenham on November 4 as an additional autumn international.

The sport's top two teams are not officially due to meet for another 18 months and following England's successive Six Nations titles, the clamour for them to lock horns is growing.

Victory over Ireland would see the champions defend the grand slam and surpass the All Blacks' record of 18 straight Test wins, setting the scene for a mouth-watering collision against Steve Hansen's men.

Jones, though, put his tongue squarely in his cheek when discussing the opportunity.

"If the All Blacks want to turn up to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and want to play us after Ireland, then we'll consider it," Jones quipped.

"Would we win? After we'd beaten Ireland? Who knows? It would be interesting, wouldn't it?"

It is understood that the proposal for a match against New Zealand was made with Jones' approval, but the Australian refused to discuss the prospect of an early clash with the triple world champions.

"I've got no view on that, I'm not an administrator. I haven't negotiated contracts, all I'm worried about is Ireland," Jones said.

"The All Blacks have got nothing to do with us. We want to be the No.1 team in the world. When we get the opportunity to play them, we'll play them."

Meanwhile, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has backed Jared Payne to perform at fullback after naming him as one of three changes to his side for the visit of Six Nations champions England to Dublin.
New Zealand-born Payne has started 17 of his 19 tests for Ireland at centre but has been selected in the No.15 jersey in place of Rob Kearney, who was ruled out with a knee injury sustained in the 22-9 defeat to Wales last weekend.

Payne played at fullback in two Tests in South Africa last year, and Schmidt says his experience and match awareness will be a benefit.

"Jared's experience will be important for us. He played a little bit at fullback for us in South Africa and is a solid player who very seldom makes an error," Schmidt said.

"He has the ability to read play and see space, and to look after the ball and anyone who gets through the defence. We have confidence in that." - Joe Schmidt

Other changes include Kieran Marmion replacing Conor Murray at halfback for a first Six Nations start and lock Iain Henderson coming in for Devin Toner.

"We made the change at nine because Conor trained OK this week without contact, but when we did a fitness test he was not 100 per cent," Schmidt said.

"Henderson came off the bench last week and did really well. It was a tight call as to how we jumbled (the lock positions) around."

Victory for Ireland would cement second place in the Six Nations, despite having lost to Scotland and Wales, and also secure a position as one of the top four seeds in the draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which will take place in Japan on May 10.

England take on Ireland on Sunday at 4am AEDT, LIVE on beIn Sport 3.


England team to play Ireland

1. Joe Marler

2. Dylan Hartley

3. Dan Cole

4. Joe Launchbury

5. Courtney Lawes

6. Maro Itoje

7. James Haskell

8. Billy Vunipola

9. Ben Youngs

10. George Ford

11. Elliot Daly

12. Owen Farrell

13. Jonathan Joseph

14. Anthony Watson

15. Mike Brown


16. Jamie George

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Kyle Sinckler

19. Tom Wood

20. Nathan Hughes

21. Danny Care

22. Ben Te'o

23. Jack Nowell

Ireland team to play England

1. Jack McGrath

2. Rory Best

3. Tadhg Furlong 

4. Donnacha Ryan

5. Iain Henderson 

6. CJ Stander

7. Sean O'Brien

8. Jamie Heaslip

9. Kieran Marmion

10. Jonathan Sexton

11. Simon Zebo

12. Robbie Henshaw

13. Garry Ringrose

14. Keith Earls

15. Jared Payne


16. Niall Scannell

17. Cian Healy

18. John Ryan

19. Devin Toner

20. Peter O'Mahony

21. Luke McGrath

22. Paddy Jackson

23. Andrew Conway