Eddie Jones is quite a character, and he’s not afraid of ruffling some feathers in order to help his team gain any kind of edge over the opposition.
We’ve seen it before, perhaps most notably in 2003 when he was preparing his Australian team for World Cup battle, and this time around he’s accused someone of using a long-lens camera to film his English team’s training session.
He did stop short of saying it was someone on the All Blacks payroll, but it’s clear that he’s getting a few digs in now to see if he can push any buttons.
Via the Guardian, here’s a snapshot of some of his spicier moments from yesterday’s press conference:
That jibe about the New Zealand journalists being fans with keyboards would have really stung.
All Black coach Steve Hansen, who spoke before Jones made the accusations, knows that his coaching foe has a few tricks up the sleeve:
Steve Hansen, was asked about potential mind games this week. “Sometimes you’re better not to bother going there and sometimes you are,” he said. “Eddie will decide whether he wants to go there and I’ve already decided what I want to do. There are still a couple more days to go. There’s no point is there? He’s a smart man. He knows me and I know him.”
He did land one jibe:
“It will be a mighty clash, but I think South Africa will always be our biggest rival — because of the history that comes with it,” Hansen said.
Not as button-pushing as Jones, but something of a poke in the ribs.
The New Zealand press certainly took Jones’ bait, because they’re raging.
Stuff ran with the headline ‘All Blacks v England: Eddie Jones’ bombs full of laughing gas’, whilst Chris Rattue, writing for the New Zealand Herald, said that ‘Smart-arse Eddie’s England are rugby’s biggest joke’.
The Telegraph, whilst clearly rooting for the English, can also see through Jones’ bluster for what it really is:
Any mark [Jones] can leave on the New Zealand edifice is worth leaving, he seems to be saying. Hence his frontal assault around “pressure,” which was almost comical, and certainly entertaining.
“I don’t think they are vulnerable but pressure is a real thing,” Jones told us. “The busiest bloke in Tokyo this week will be Gilbert Enoka, the mental skills coach [Enoka’s title is Manager – Leadership]. They have to deal with all this pressure of winning the World Cup three times and it’s potentially the last game for their greatest coach and their greatest captain, and they will be thinking about those things. Those thoughts go through your head. It is always harder to defend a World Cup and they will be thinking about that and therefore there’s pressure.”
…Ever since the draw was made he knew this match was coming: “We’ve prepared for this game for two and a half years. I can remember being in Kyoto two and a half years ago and quickly you could do the mathematics – even an Australian could do the mathematics – that we were going to play New Zealand in a semi-final. Progressively we’ve built a game that we think we can take New Zealand with.”
There’s the nub. This is a coach talking to his own squad, not the All Blacks, who will be amused but not unsettled.
Here at home, we may be dealing with our own rugby version of Brexit (I refer to Faf de Klerk’s box kicks, which have divided supporters, and hereby dub it ‘Boxit’), but Rassie has largely left the mind games alone.
He could have had a good whinge about the horrors of having French ref Jérôme Garcès blow our showdown with Wales, and would be justified in doing so, but he’d prefer the Boks to do his talking on the field.
A reminder that the England versus New Zealand semi-final kicks off at 10AM on Saturday, whilst the Boks’ match against Wales kicks off at 11AM on Sunday.
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