Eddie Jones has attempted to unsettle Ireland ahead of Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup showdown by placing the spotlight on their scrummaging technique.
England’s head coach has aimed a series of psychological jabs at Andy Farrell’s men, who he mischievously referenced as the ‘United Nations’ in allusion to the number of southern hemisphere players in their starting XV.
But the key strike was made against Andrew Porter after Jones sought to bring the attention of French referee Pascal Gauzere to the Leinster prop when the rivals collide at Twickenham.
Porter, deputising for injured Lions tighthead Tadhg Furlong, gave Wales a torrid time at the scrum in the opening round of the tournament but Jones has misgivings over his approach.
“Porter’s done really well, he’s taken to Test rugby well. Scrums in a fairly unusual way which may need some referee intervention there, so we’ll wait and see,” Jones said.
When asked to elaborate on the source of his concern over Porter, Jones said: “I’ll leave that up to the referee.
“The scrum contest is always challenging against Ireland. We’ve got a referee who generally doesn’t reward dominant scrums so it’ll be interesting to see how he looks at that area.
“We’ll need to be adaptable to his calls on it, it’s no use scrummaging if you can’t get a result out of it.
“But they’ve got a good scrum. Cian Healy’s played over 100 caps at loosehead so he’s got to be hugely respected.”
Saturday’s opponents have been labelled the ‘Irish Barbarians’ on the grounds that five players – Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, CJ Stander and Quinn Roux – hail from New Zealand or South Africa and are eligible through residency.
Seizing his opportunity, Jones quipped: “I heard someone calling them the United Nations, so I had a little chuckle.
“Andy Farrell, Mike Catt and Simon Easterby are just selecting the team they are allowed under the regulations.
“I can understand how Irish people would be upset about Irish-born players missing out, but they are the laws and regulations of international rugby. They are just sticking by the regulations.”
Although adopting a respectful tone to the challenge awaiting against the Irish – the first meaningful assignment of the autumn – Jones was happy to continue prodding a team England have defeated emphatically in their three most recent meetings.
Your squad to face Ireland 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 19, 2020
Ireland opened the competition with a statement by overwhelming Wales 32-9 but Jones pointedly referenced Farrell’s claim that it was a “dominant” display when considering Saturday’s clash.
“Ireland were very happy with their dominant performance against Wales and we know they are a very well-coached team,” Jones said.
“As their coaching staff said, they were dominant, so the challenge is can they bring a dominant Irish performance to Twickenham?
“I know Andy Farrell very well, they will be well-prepared and they’ll come to Twickenham with a point to prove, which always makes them dangerous.
“Every battle is a tough battle. We were going well and Ireland beat us for a Grand Slam in 2017. We’ll never forget that.
“These are good battles between two good rugby countries, different sized countries, different histories, but the battles and traditional rivalry are enormous and it needs to be respected.”
England field an unchanged backline following their 40-0 rout of Georgia but there are four changes in personnel to the pack with props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola and flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill restored.
George Ford has recovered from an Achilles injury to secure a place on the bench.