Wednesday 21 February 2018

Michael Cheika hits back at Eddie Jones in escalating war of words and accuses him of tarnishing his reputation

Michael Cheika and England coach Eddie Jones
Michael Cheika and England coach Eddie Jones

Daniel Schofield

Australia coach Michael Cheika yesterday returned fire on Eddie Jones, claiming the England boss is tarnishing his reputation in his homeland.

The gloves are now well and truly off ahead of Saturday's clash at Twickenham. It was already guaranteed to be a fiery affair with England - who will be without back Elliot Daly following his three-week suspension yesterday - seeking a record-equalling 14th consecutive victory, while Australia are out for revenge for their 3-0 summer whitewash.

During that series Cheika kept his counsel in the face of several barbs from the England boss, who is a former Randwick team-mate.

However, yesterday Cheika painted an unflattering portrayal of Jones' conduct during the June series. From the moment Jones set foot Down Under claiming that he was subject to an unnecessarily protracted bag search by custom officials, he fired off a list of accusations, mainly directed towards the Australian media, who he said subjected England to "demeaning and disrespectful" coverage. Cheika evidently was not impressed.

"In June, maybe I gave the opportunity to see how a former Australian would deal with it," Cheika said. "It was a bit like a goalscorer who scores against his old team. I suppose it is always difficult where you go back against a team you have coached before and don't know how to play it.

"Do you stay reserved or get stuck into them? I know what I would do. Even in Ireland where I coached for many years. But that's the choice he makes if he thinks it's best for his team.

"There was a lot of vitriol about Australia - his home nation where he coached and where his opportunities were given to him to catch and grow up as a coach and play. Personally, if you're looking to leave a legacy somewhere, you don't want to hit back at it, do you?"

Speaking before that series, Cheika said how much he was looking forward to having a beer with Jones. Since then the relationship seems to have cooled. Although Cheika says they remain "mates", he added: "I wouldn't know him if I didn't play footie with him. We wouldn't have associated."

Cheika also claims that Jones, having asked to speak to Saturday's referee Jaco Peyper this week, "stormed out" of a previous referee's meeting in the summer. The mind games, though, are Jones' prerogative.

"If he wants to play it that way that's totally fine with me as well," Cheika said. "But does it help winning or losing? I'd like to think it's the players' skill and ability and mentality on the field that make the difference." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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