Monday 19 March 2018

Unrepentant Jones imposes media ban on himself

Eddie Jones: ‘From this press conference onwards I’m putting a media ban on myself’. Photo: PA
Eddie Jones: ‘From this press conference onwards I’m putting a media ban on myself’. Photo: PA

Duncan Bech

England head coach Eddie Jones is to implement a self-imposed media blackout in response to the outcry over his comments that he was concerned for the welfare of Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton.

Jones heightened tension between the rival camps before yesterday's victory at Twickenham by stating that Sexton's parents "would be worried" about the whiplash injury the British and Irish Lion suffered against France.

Jones' willingness to bring Sexton's family into his pre-match gamesmanship was widely condemned and is known to have been viewed dimly within the Irish camp, but the Australian has no regrets and will not speak to the media again for almost two weeks.

"From this press conference onwards I'm putting a media ban on myself," Jones said at a feisty post-match press conference. "I don't want to do any scaremongering or do anything that offends the media or offends people's parents.

"From now until next Friday before the Wales game I'm not talking to the media. So no-one will have to worry about scaremongering and all that type of thing.

"Mate, if I don't say anything you come away from the press conference and say it's boring. If I say something I'm scaremongering. I can't win, so the easiest way is that I don't come to the media conference."

When asked if he regretted mentioning Sexton's parents, Jones replied: "I don't regret anything. Why would I regret it? Ireland said he had whiplash injuries, not me. It's a sideshow - it's finished. The main event is over. We're not talking about the sideshow any more."

Jones raved about Billy Vunipola after his first game in charge and was again delighted by the No 8 after this victory kept his team on course for a first Grand Slam in 13 years.

Vunipola was a one-man wrecking ball, carrying 18 times for 96 metres and draining the energy from an Ireland team who saw their hopes of a third successive title disappear.

"He's just a kid but he was great today and he's going to get better," Jones said of Vunipola who after a similarly barnstorming performance against Scotland at Murrayfield was told he could become the best No 8 in the world. "You can see he's enjoying it. We've made him a vice captain and though he's not a great talker, he leads by example."

Vunipola's aggressive ball-carrying did not produce an immediate return but the dividends arrived in the second half as a weary Irish side left holes in defence which England seized upon with match-winning tries by Anthony Watson and Mike Brown.

England's third successive Six Nations win, and their first at Twickenham since their depressing early World Cup exit, has put them in pole position to claim the Championship but Jones was keen to play down talk of a clean sweep.

"I'm still trying to work out what a Grand Slam means," said the Australian. "We are thinking only about Wales in two weeks."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt finds himself in the unaccustomed situation of trying to buoy up a losing team as Saturday's setback followed a draw with Wales and defeat against France.

The New Zealander bemoaned a TMO decision that ruled out a possible Ireland try "but for a dark patch on TV" but he accepted his side had paid the price for missed opportunities on the few occasions they threatened the English line.

"We've got to be better at converting," he said. "Though probably a bit of fatigue allowed them to get ahead. For us it's a bit of a transition period so I say to the fans, 'Don't lose faith'."

"There are some positives, but we need to get a result," said Schmidt. "Don't lose faith that we will keep building and hopefully that will keep people enthusiastic.

"Stu [McCloskey] got into the game in the second half and showed the big, strong carrier he can be. I thought Josh (van der Flier) just grew into the game and got better and better as it went on," he added.

"I think we showed tried to play positively today and showed enterprise and the young players have shown hints that they can step up to this level, that has to be positive.

"We really challenged England today and they're a really settled team, to be honest it's really tough at the moment for players who take so much pride in their effort and don't get the result but I don't feel that we're a million miles away."

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