'They scrummage illegally' - Eddie Jones stirs the pot ahead of showdown with Wales
Published 10/03/2016 | 16:19
England head coach Eddie Jones has accused Wales of scrummaging "terribly illegally" as the build-up to Saturday's RBS 6 Nations title showdown between the arch-rivals finally ignited.
Jones claims Warren Gatland's men pre-engage at the scrum knowing that the referee will eventually tire of awarding penalties against them out of fear of being criticised for ruining the game.
Shortly before the Australian had offered his views unprompted, Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde declared that England prop Joe Marler "definitely needs to scrummage legally, otherwise we will be pointing the finger."
But it is Jones' comments - made on the day he removed his self-imposed media gag - that have lit the fuse for a Twickenham collision that is likely to decide the winners of the 2016 Six Nations.
"Wales play the laws very well. I'm quite upset about the way they scrummage," Jones told BBC Radio Five Live. "They scrummage illegally. They pre-engage all the time, which is against the laws of the game.
"We've got the stronger scrum, so we want proper scrum laws. We want the laws enforced and if they are enforced we'll get an advantage in that area."
When asked if he thought Wales had been scrummaging illegally all tournament, Jones replied: "100%. 100%. Terribly illegally."
The pre-match brinkmanship has thrust the performance of referee Craig Joubert under the spotlight in the South African's first Test since the World Cup quarter-final, when he ran off the pitch having awarded Australia an erroneous penalty that they kicked to knock Scotland out of the tournament.
Jones believes officials cave before Wales' illegal approach due to their desire to keep the game moving, but he has urged Joubert to enforce the laws even if it means repeated interruptions.
"Wales pre-engage because they don't want the contest at the start of the scrum," Jones said. "They get penalised one or two times at the start of the scrum, but then they get sick of penalising them because if the referee keeps penalising them, then he gets criticised.
"We really want to have a scrum contest on Saturday as that's an important part of the game, so we're really hopeful the referee enforces the law in that area. You're not allowed to pre-engage, that's part of the law. But they do it and they consistently do it.
"But they only get penalised at the start of the game because if you're Wayne Barnes or Craig Joubert and you keep penalising Wales for pre-engaging, then what will all the smart guys in the commentators' box say?
"They'll say the referee is ruining the game, but the referee isn't ruining the game, it's the team that is scrummaging illegally that's ruining the game.
"We want the referee to be really hard and if he has to ruin the game, then he has to ruin the game. We want the referee to keep penalising them."
The first shot in the war of words that erupted 48-hours out from the biggest match of the 2016 Six Nations was fired by McBryde, who chose to concentrate on the technique of Marler.
In the build up to the 33-13 defeat to Australia that knocked England out of the World Cup, former Australia coach Bob Dwyer highlighted the way in which Marler bores in from an angle.
The Red Rose scrum suffered as they crashed to their fourth highest defeat at Twickenham and McBryde insists Marler should have been brought to task by the referee against Wales a week earlier.
"Marler got found out against Australia. There was a big focus on the loosehead's angle going into the World Cup and that was highlighted to us with regards to Gethin Jenkins and Paul James and it's something we focused on a lot," McBryde said.
"So it was very disappointing, especially in that England game, where we fell on the wrong side of decisions given against us and we felt the problem lay elsewhere.
"The feedback we had have after that game was positive with regards to what we were trying to do and felt we should have had a couple more penalties in that game.
"It's very hard for me as a coach when the players are saying, 'Listen, they are doing it, they are getting away with it, why have we changed?' The tables did turn somewhat in the game against Australia."