Eddie Jones turns up heat on Wales over 'illegal' scrums
The scrums have been collapsing all season with monotonous regularity, so it seemed only right and proper that relations between England and Wales - never wholly harmonious before a big Six Nations set-to at Twickenham - should fall apart in a flurry of accusation and counter-accusation over chicanery at the set piece.
Both camps went on the warpath yesterday in search of a crucial advantage that could easily determine the outcome of tomorrow's contest.
Just as England coach Eddie Jones, back in the public eye after almost a fortnight of self-imposed Trappism, was raising doubts over the Welsh front-row and the legality of their approach to the scrum engagement, Robbie McBryde, a fellow former hooker in charge of the Wales forwards, could be heard making a point or two of his own, notably about England loosehead Joe Marler - the man at the centre of a similar ruckus during last year's World Cup.
Silence does not come naturally to Jones, who yesterday named an unchanged team, and once he had started speaking on his chosen topic, he was in no hurry to stop.
"I'm quite upset about the way Wales scrummage," he said. "They scrummage illegally. Terribly illegally. They pre-engage all the time, which is against the laws of the game. They do it because they don't want a contest. . . and we really want a contest.
"They get penalised once or twice at the start, but then the referees get sick of penalising them because if they keep doing it, they get criticised by all the smart guys in the commentary box. They say the ref is ruining the game, but he isn't ruining it. The team scrummaging illegally is.
"We want the referee to be really hard. We have the strongest scrum, so we want the laws enforced."
By comparison, McBryde was brief and to the point. He claimed Wales had been victims of a miscarriage of scrummaging justice during the World Cup pool match between the two countries last September and identified Marler as the chief culprit.
"He definitely needs to scrummage legally, otherwise we'll be pointing the finger," he remarked. "He was found out against the Wallabies." (© Independent News Service)
England -Brown; Watson, Joseph, Farrell, Nowell; Ford, Youngs; Marler, Hartley (capt), Cole; Itoje, Kruis; Robshaw, Haskell, B Vunipola.
Wales - Williams; Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, North; Biggar, Davies; Evans, Baldwin, Lee; Davies, AW Jones; Lydiate, Warburton (capt), Faletau.