News Sports

Jones gets cranky as England eye history

Jones gets cranky as England eye history

It’s strange trying to create a siege mentality when your team have won 17 Tests in a row but that appears to be England coach Eddie Jones’s approach heading into Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland at Twickenham.

Victory this weekend would see England equal world champions New Zealand’s record of 18 successive Test wins by a ‘tier one’ nation and might even be enough to retain the Six Nations title should Wales beat Ireland on Friday.

A win would also leave England going for back-to-back Grand Slams in Dublin next weekend.

Jones has overseen 16 of England’s 17 consecutive victories and has won all his matches as Red Rose coach since taking charge following the team’s first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.

The Australian has been widely praised for his central role in England’s revival, yet appeared personally insulted when his team were left perplexed by Italy’s ‘no ruck’ ploy at Twickenham last time out, saying it was as unsporting as underarm bowling in cricket.

Jones, possibly annoyed at being outfoxed, however, briefly — England still scored five second-half tries in a 36-15 win over Italy — remained tetchy after naming his side on Thursday.

“There was someone confused in the first half and it wasn’t our players,” said Jones.

Of course, so long as England keep winning, Jones can pretty much say what he likes in a bid to ease the pressure on his team.

There was certainly some method in his comments about Scotland, with the former Australia and Japan boss saying: “Scotland’s a well-coached side and Vern Cotter is a good rugby coach so they will participate in the spirit of the game.”

It was an attempt to limit Scotland while praising them, although Cotter’s men showed an eye for a trick when centre Alex Dunbar joined a line-out before scoring against Ireland.

But Jones’s response to a question about the fitness of centre Owen Farrell, who suffered a training ground leg injury on Thursday, was surreal, with the coach proclaiming the goal-kicker “doubtful” before, moments later, declaring he would be “alright”

Jones has made three changes, with wing Jack Nowell, centre Jonathan Joseph and scrum-half Ben Youngs all earning a recall.

Meanwhile fit-again powerhouse back-row Billy Vunipola returns to the bench, with Nathan Hughes retaining the No 8 shirt.

England also have strength in depth at loosehead prop, where Joe Marler has held off Mako Vunipola, Billy’s brother, to win his 50th cap.

Marler and his front row colleagues could be key to the outcome, as Scotland have struggled at the scrum this season in the absence of injured cornerstone prop WP Nel.

And for all Stuart Hogg is a leading candidate to tour New Zealand with this year’s British and Irish Lions, England will look to test the dashing Scotland fullback’s much-talked about defence.

But if the likes of rampaging lock Johnny Gray can disrupt England up front, mercurial Scotland fly-half Finn Russell could still feature heavily.

Scotland last won at Twickenham in 1983 and, even more significantly perhaps, it’s nine years since they beat England anywhere.

But this Six Nations has already seen Scotland defeat both Ireland and Wales and it will be the Scots, rather than England, who claim the Triple Crown if they record just their fifth win at Twickenham this weekend.

Cotter, who made just one change, with Hamish Watson replacing injured back-row forward John Hardie, said: “England haven’t lost for a long while and we are playing them at home.

“I thought with Italy’s ruck tactics they adapted well but they’ll be annoyed about that and they won’t want to be caught out again. Eddie’s very competitive, they’re a very competitive team.”

The New Zealander added: “We know if we can find something that they haven’t prepared for then that gives us an advantage for a certain amount of time, but not for very long.”

–AFP