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Neil Francis: 'Petulant Jones has reached point of no return with disgruntled England'

 

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Eddie Jones’ England represent the greatest threat in this championship to Ireland. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Eddie Jones’ England represent the greatest threat in this championship to Ireland. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Getty Images

Eddie Jones’ England represent the greatest threat in this championship to Ireland. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

The two camera pops of Eddie Jones at the Wasps v Leinster game at the Ricoh were instructive. A short hold in terms of time but just long enough to elicit a sustained chorus of boos.

There were about a thousand Leinster fans at the game but they weren't the ones giving the cat calls. Losing the dressing room is one thing, losing the crowd is another.

At this stage in the cycle there is almost universal disdain for Jones and his antics, particularly on this side of the pond.

A decent showing in November kept him in his job, but another poor Six Nations could yet trigger further calls from a disgruntled rugby nation.

Ireland, far from being the side under pressure, will relish the home advantage and whatever England can throw at them.

If his side underperform or display the same fatigue-ridden tempo of last season, Jones will be the man under pressure with a team trying to recover their poise and swagger from an opening-day defeat to Ireland.

Hard to know, unless you had spy cameras, what each team got up to in Portugal but it seems that Jones pushed his squad too far again and it will be interesting to see how fresh they are for what will be a torrid affair.

Clarion

How sure can Jones be of himself or his team? The season before last when things were going well Jones issued a clarion call for his team to go out and 'do' Italy.

"We want to go out there and smash Italy. I said to the boys go out there and give them a good hiding."

It's just not something you expect to hear quoted from the coach of England - go out there and kick the s*** out of the poor old Italians. I couldn't warm to the bloke if I was cremated beside him.

To me, it says something about the psyche of the guy. The Italians are gutsy triers most of the time - how far away are England from their level when their coach publicly states that he wants to put 70 or 80 points on the tournament's weakest team.

Warren Gatland may be a bit gobby but he would never descend to some of the snide remarks that Jones has uttered in his pre-match theatrics.

Joe Schmidt is the antithesis of Eddie Jones' persona and would never behave in the petulant and faux arrogant manner that Jones does.

There is no currency for behaving like an untipped waiter and, as it always does in matches of this magnitude, the winner is always decided by the quality of coaching and preparation not the sideshow beforehand.

There is a school of thought out there that Ireland may have peaked after their dispatch of the All Blacks last November.

I disagree and feel that there is a bit more to go from Ireland. New Zealand looked patchy and jaded at the Aviva and I don't think Ireland were perfect on the day.

I thought that they were capable of going up one more gear - they were also missing Conor Murray which impaired their efficiency hugely.

Let us be clear about one thing: England represent the greatest threat in the championship to Ireland - they are capable of coming over here and beating Ireland, not an ambush or a shock victory.

This is England and they have the player quality and the firepower to unsettle Ireland and win.

The big question is whether they have a coaching ticket who can prepare them to maximise their potential and produce at the time of asking.

We are well past the point of acknowledging that team sport at this level is all about coaching and even the English media careful not to inflate their green rivals' heads point to the fact that Ireland are a superbly-coached side.

This is true. If Jacques Brunel was coaching Ireland, they would lose next Saturday.

England are a far stronger side on paper than they were at Twickenham last March but maybe their coach will find himself in a weaker disposition.

Tactically, England looked good only in spurts and in their down periods they looked rudderless.

If England want to progress in Japan they will need to arrive there with some leaders. In their pack they have Maro Itoje as a possible chief - all the rest are Indians.

Outside England rely heavily now on Owen Farrell. They really need his strength of personality - sometimes that can manifest too strongly.

Both teams are announced today at lunchtime. I fully expect Farrell to be picked and to lead his team.

However, surgery that a player undergoes two weeks before the biggest test of the year must be absolutely required - would it have been possible for him to play in all five matches of the championship without it?

Scalpel

Obviously not and so the decision was made to go under the knife for 'minor surgery'. If it required surgery it couldn't be that minor and it cannot be 100pc right. A general anaesthetic, a scalpel, healing time? Farrell is made of stern stuff but how right could he be?

If he doesn't play or has to come off then England are in real trouble for leadership.

Farrell too has other issues. Much has been made of his body slam/tackle on Andre Esterhuizen in the last moments of the Test against the Springboks. Angus Gardiner bottled the call and England survived and by extension so did Eddie. You would have thought that Farrell would make adjustments to his technique and his attitude.

In the second half of the Lyon v Saracens game Farrell in open play went and clothes-lined one of the Lyon players and realising that he was going to get a yellow released the player mid clothes-line - the play continued and Farrell got back into the line but moments later led with the shoulder, head high into another Lyon player.

He got away with it scot free. Farrell does not seem to be able to control himself even when this area of his game is under a spotlight.

I suspect there will be a huge amount of niggle and off-the-ball stuff this Saturday and with the referees charged to take strict action on head-high tackles, Farrell can't risk more form here.

Jerome Garces is one referee who won't have any compunction in sending him to the line. England's hopes depend on Farrell - he walks the tightrope.

I feel England don't have the experience or the firepower in their back-row and I would be surprised if Billy Vunipola lasts for even 60 minutes.

The game will be won in the battle of the back-row and how England deal with the kicking game that is put to them.

There will be times that Ireland will be under the cosh in this game but I think they will eventually overcome a strong and physical challenge from England.

Irish Independent