Jim Telfer, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach, has opened hostilities ahead of the Six Nations by describing England head coach Eddie Jones as “a bit like Donald Trump”, wanting to be “the big man” and exhibiting “a disappointing lack of respect” for the opposition.
Twickenham, Telfer added, was an unattractive “concrete jungle”, filled with fans who have “bags of money” and look down their noses at their “pleb” visitors.
Known for his outspoken views, this is not the first time Telfer, 76, has attacked England or their supporters. Three years ago the man who led the Lions on the 1983 tour of New Zealand and was assistant coach in 1997, branded England as “arrogant, pretentious and condescending”, while in the same interview dismissing Welsh players as “basically lazy”.
This time it is Jones who bears the brunt of his criticism. “Eddie Jones doesn’t want to beat teams, he wants to demolish them, which I find a bit disappointing,” Telfer told the BBC. “To me, he’s building his whole team on set-piece and the building of the attack comes secondary.
“Having coached Australia and Japan you would have thought the opposite would be the case. The way he speaks, it’s a bit like Donald Trump. He wants to be the big man, you know?
“His goal is to win the World Cup in 2019 and so far it’s gone well, but I think he could be a little more circumspect, show a bit more respect for the opposition. He doesn’t seem to show much respect and it could come back to bite him.”
Of Twickenham, Telfer added: “They think they’re superior and a lot of them will come from the south east, bags of money and bags of this and bags of that. They don’t really appreciate the other team. In France they just boo the other team, in Argentina they boo the other team, in England it’s just disdain. ‘Why are we playing these plebs?’ I don’t like Twickenham; a concrete jungle, nothing attractive about it at all.”
Telfer said he was disappointed coach Vern Cotter is leaving Scotland.
“I think he’s done a remarkable job,” said Telfer. “He’s got a clear message. The players know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing individually and collectively.
“The New Zealanders talk about producing good rugby players but also about producing good men. That’s what he’s doing.
“He’s a journey back to the old type of coach, a hard man who understands the Scottish philosophy. Scotsmen will run through brick walls for you if you treat them properly and if they’re the right type. He would find the Scottish players’ attitude refreshing. When I heard he was leaving, I was disappointed.
“We’ve been talking about having three wins for years, but it’s possible. I think this is the best Scottish squad since 1999. I’ve a feeling Vern is going to get some reward for the work they’ve done.”
Telfer added: “Ireland will be very close to being favourites to win the title. They’re used to winning and pose a great threat. They don’t make mistakes. They can control the ball and they’ve enough match-winners who can take the game by the scruff of the neck. They’ve got great depth as well. Scrum-half Conor Murray is excellent, a great general.
“If I was down to my last fiver I’d back my own country. Heart over head, possibly. France are getting better and they have a coach now who understands what rugby is about. If we’re at our best in France we could win, but it depends how France come back after playing England. If they’re battered and bruised and the crowd get at them, they’ll have to play well in Paris to keep their season going.”
At the end of his first Six Nations as Ireland captain, Rory Best was asked to sum up what he had learned. The Ulster hooker reflected that because of the influx of new faces at the start of the campaign, the senior players had allowed their standards to drop and that he and the leadership group could not let that happen again.
Although Ian Keatley has been called up to Ireland training over the last week, Joe Schmidt will welcome Johnny Sexton back to full training today as preparations step up ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against Scotland.
With due respect to schools and club rugby, they represent the calm before the storm as the Six Nations comes firmly into view. Just days to go and already anticipation is at an unprecedented high, particularly in this neck of the woods.