Eddie Jones gives mixed messages on Owen Farrell's fitness before Scotland clash
Eddie Jones conducted a spiky final press conference ahead of England's Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland that fuelled confusion over the fitness of Owen Farrell.
In a marked departure from the usual exuberance he displays when addressing the media, the prickly Australian gave a series of evasive answers and repeatedly deflected questions with the words "all I'm worried about is Scotland".
Farrell is expected to start the Triple Crown decider at Twickenham that could see England retain their RBS 6 Nations title despite limping off during training on Thursday morning.
The Saracens playmaker, due to start at inside centre, needed treatment on an unspecified injury and was subsequently withdrawn from the session at the squad's Surrey base, raising concerns over his fitness.
Instead of clarifying the nature of Farrell's ailment, Jones gave conflicting answers and even joked that it was the result of a collision with his dog Annie, a Papillon who was chased by the head coach when running on to the training pitch in the build up to the round three win over Italy.
"Owen could be a doubt, he could be a doubt. He's got a bad leg, so he couldn't finish training. He'll be all right,'' Jones said.
"I'm not going to tell you that (the specifics of Farrell's injury). I'm sure you've got a long range camera and you can go into one of the rooms and find out.
"I think he ran into my dog. My dog was running around and he ran into it. Annie is a pretty tricky runner and sometimes she gets off the leash.
"Owen just ran into someone at training - it's as simple as that. He'll be alright, possibly."
When it was pointed out to Jones that he had given conflicting answers over Farrell's fitness, Jones replied: ''Yeah, but I think he'll be all right, is that OK?
"We've got some great goal kickers - George Ford. But Owen will be right, he's in doubt but we'll see. He should be right.
"We have plenty of back-ups. Ben Te'o can play 12, he's an exceptional player, so there's no risk for us."
A more definitive outlook over Farrell's injury was provided by his centre partner Jonathan Joseph, who has been recalled in place of Te'o.
"I didn't see what happened but he'll be completely fine. He'll be out there on Saturday,'' Joseph said.
England on Tuesday appeared to reveal their team selection against Scotland when the written contents of a whiteboard positioned at the side of their training pitch was captured by a photographer.
Three of the four changes uncovered by the picture - the return of scrum-half Ben Youngs, wing Jack Nowell and Joseph - have materialised, but Billy Vunipola has been picked on the bench rather the starting XV to prove one adjustment was wide of the mark.
Jones appeared to claim that leaving out the whiteboard displaying team selection was a deliberate ruse - "the boards weren't left out by accident" - but explained his decision to retain Nathan Hughes at number eight.
Vunipola only returned from a three-month lay-off with a knee injury last weekend, playing 72 minutes of Saracens' victory over Newcastle, and Jones is wary of risking him for England's attempt at claiming a record-equalling 18th successive Test victory.
"Billy was always in with a chance, he's one of our best players, but he's not ready to start yet," Jones said.
"Nathan is going really well for us, we're happy with the way he's going. We're going to get a fantastic 80 minutes from that position."