Tuesday 23 January 2018

Jones urges injury-hit England to ramp up arrogance

England head coach Eddie Jones. Picture: PA
England head coach Eddie Jones. Picture: PA

Ian Herbert

Eddie Jones was, rather inappropriately, seated beneath two paintings of flowers - wallflowers - when, having taken apart Donald Trump and Scottish coach Jim Telfer in the conversation, he moved onto the issue of how very reserved he has found England and its rugby internationals to be.

There was some irony about this, given that Telfer had made English arrogance once of the topics of the week in his denigration of the "superior" Twickenham crowd with their "bags of money and bags of this and that," as he put it a few days ago. It was actually more arrogance that Jones is looking for.

His asserted a year or so back that England spent too much time trying to be liked - "going around the world apologising".

Ahead a Six Nation opener against a French side who in their stylish pomp were arrogance personified, Jones maintained that his players are still too diffident for his Aussie liking, even though he had watered down the vocabulary from 18 months ago.

"We want our players to be deliberately. . . not arrogant… but forthright," he declared.

So spoke the coach who is still nursing the remains of a black eye which he has not entirely explained away. A slip in the shower and a training ground mishap were his contradictory explanations last week.

It gives him the look of the scrapper he has always been and the evidence of defence coach Paul Gustard's team-talk suggests that he has already taken the politesse out of what Stuart Lancaster bequeathed him.

Gustard reminded the players on Tuesday that England have fought 20 wars against the French, by way of reminder that the side Guy Noves brings to Twickenham do not tend to lay down arms.

The fighting quality is written through so much of Jones' body of work, too.

The perseverance with Dylan Hartley as captain despite another six-week ban which only expired last week. The demeanour yesterday of Joe Marler, who is no shrinking violet. The now fabled training sessions in which the intensity level always has to be higher than that of the ensuing game. And the way Jones keeps his players' at arms' length, never seeking to foster affection. No sentiment.

We haven't seen all of Jones' spots yet, of course, because England have only known the bright side of life under him. The Grand Slam champions have secured 14 consecutive wins, averaging nearly 40 points a game last autumn.

But though the mood in Paris is one of resignation to a winless Six Nations run at Twickenham extending into a 13th year, France are beginning to discover a little of the old flair under Noves.

England's injuries - Antony Watson, the Vunipola brothers, Chris Robshaw and George Kruis - are also providing some succour among the visitors. Being without his two main ball carriers, main line-out operative and No 6 represents serious damage.

Jones is willing to admit that the tribal loyalties attached to the Six Nations also surprised him.

"Coaching England you feel the other countries certainly enjoy the rivalry against England," he said. "They see England as the gifted one. They've got the biggest union. They've got Twickenham, the most money. So it's a little bit us versus them." (© Independent News Service)

England - M Brown; J May, J Joseph, O Farrell, E Daly; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, D Hartley (capt), D Cole; J Launchbury; C Lawes; M Itoje, T Wood, N Hughes. Reps: J George, M Mullan, K Sinckler, T Harrison, J Haskell, D Care, B Te'o, J Nowell.

France - S Spedding; N Nakaitaci, R Lamerat, G Fickou, V Vakatawa; C Lopez, B Serin; C Baille, G Guirado (capt), U Atonio; S Vahaamahina, Y Maestri; D Chouly, K Gourdon, L Picamoles. Reps: C Maynadier, R Slimani, X Chiocci, A Iturria, L Goujon, M Machenaud, J-M Doussain, Y Huget.

Irish Independent

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