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Eddie Jones' 'absolute brutality' comments came back to haunt him in French beating

Brendan Fanning


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Tempers flare during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Stade de France

Tempers flare during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Stade de France

PA

Tempers flare during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Stade de France

The tone for the weekend was set by Eddie Jones. Well there's a surprise. A man who invests frequently in the Banter Bank, he leaned out the window of the England team hotel last week and hollered across the Channel about what was coming.

His boys – war veterans compared to this gaggle of lads in the French Resistance – would not be taking prisoners. "Absolute brutality" were the words he used to package the message.

"The game is violent isn't it?" he said. "You make a choice to play the game. It's a brutal, physically aggressive game. We saw in the World Cup final how important aggression is. It's going to be the same on Sunday. I apologise if it's been interpreted in the wrong way."

The last line was cover for the message that preceded it. Everyone connected with the game would pick up on the key point. So referee Nigel Owens and his team of assistants would be reminded that in this latest instalment of what is a savage, collision sport, the strongmen would be wearing white. The significance is that the aggressors get the decisions. Under extreme physical pressure the men making mistakes would be those in blue.

Jones rarely opens his beak without figuring out the likely consequences of what he says. As interesting as he is bright, in this business we love blokes like Eddie Jones. Raised on the wrong side of the tracks in south Sydney, an outsider in a rugby system invested in private schools, he likes to sledge opponents. It's not casual.

Nor, in this instance, does it break any rules. He's stating the obvious. What is equally inescapable is the ripple effect beyond Jones's target market. He may have been speaking indirectly to people he wanted to influence in Paris, but far beyond that game parents will have picked up with clarity what he was saying. And you could paraphrase it as follows: "Folks, you'd be mad to let your kids play this game."

If those mammies and daddies were tuned into events at Lansdowne Road they would have got further evidence of the awful truth. After just five minutes debutant Caelan Doris was taken out by friendly fire. Bang. Looked like lights out. It took a while to get him sorted and help him off the pitch.

As we were leaving the press box to head downstairs for the media conference a club player, a front row forward who would know his way around the paddock, approached. His description of the moments before Dave Kilcoyne was taken off – a minute after he had come on – was graphic. When we went back to review it the picture was of a man who hadn't the wherewithal to get back on his feet.

At the media conference Andy Farrell gave very positive reports on the wellbeing of Doris and Kilcoyne. It's unclear if either was given a HIA1, the opening move in the process to determine if the player has been concussed. The inference is it wasn't necessary. They had been wiped. So already the pair of them are following Return to Play protocols. Will they be declared fit to face Wales on Saturday? Don't bet against it.

Andy Farrell was very upbeat after the game about their wellbeing. Maybe he just wanted to put a positive spin on things, but painting a picture of the lads bouncing around the changing rooms, happy as clams, sounds like getting a ding is nothing. He needs to change tone on this.

And so does Eddie Jones. True to his word, England brought "absolute brutality" to Paris, but sometimes it's hard to mix savagery with fine motor skills. When it's a piddly wet day then that's a battle. It was one France deserved to win. Round one of this Six Nations is complete and there are bodies all over the gaff.

Online Editors