Jones: Ireland are the European benchmark
Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30
England coach Eddie Jones has turned up the heat on Ireland ahead of the sides' crunch Six Nations meeting at Twickenham next week.
As Joe Schmidt began preparations for the third game of his side's faltering Championship defence in Mullingar yesterday, the Australian newcomer has been talking about the 'Aussie Rules' tactics he feels are employed by Ireland.
Jones hinted that he feels teams have caught on to what Schmidt's sides are doing since the New Zealander first had success with the national team, but says that stopping Conor Murray at source is the key to stopping Ireland.
And he believes that winning the aerial battle will go a long way to securing a third win of this Six Nations campaign.
"The great thing about rugby is it changes all the time. You now have this kicking game that three years ago. . . maybe not in England but round the rest of the world it wasn't coached greatly," he said.
"Now you have this escorting of players back, the protection of catchers, all those sorts of small detail you have to coach now.
"The teams that do those things well are the teams that win the aerial battle. It's not just about having the tallest, bravest catchers, you've got to work off the ball to ensure you give them protection, you've got to put kick-pressure on the kickers.
"And Murray's one of the outstanding half-backs in the world. He is very sharp, he is street-smart, he senses things well and he has a good kicking game.
"He is a guy you have to put a fair bit of pressure on. But to get to Murray, you have to do other things.
For all that Jones appears to think Ireland are one-dimensional, he is expecting a step up.
"We've got to be careful about our performance on Sunday because we played Italy," he said. "If England were playing Japan last Sunday and I didn't say we were going to give them a good hiding, what would you have said? 'You're kidding yourself'.
"We didn't quite manage to give them a good hiding, but we won the game convincingly and we've got to be better than that.'
''We're playing against Ireland and they're the benchmark of European rugby. Before the World Cup, they were the team who were tipped to progress the furthest; everyone's favourites.
"They've won two Six Nations and they've got a lot of good players, so we'll see where we are next Saturday. It's a step up because we're going from one tier to the other."