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Six Nations: England coach Jones insists his slur won't be the basis of Ireland's motivation

 

By Jack de Menezes

It started with a statement, and then that was that.

Eddie Jones issued his second apology in the space of 17 hours to say sorry for his comments about Ireland and Wales, having labelled this weekend's Six Nations opponents "scummy" and their next-door neighbours "a little s*** place".

"I'd just like to say I've apologised for the remarks," Jones said in a statement before his press conference.

"I sincerely mean that and I really don't have anything else to say on the matter, so I am happy to obviously answer questions on a fantastic game that's coming up but I think the other matter is dead.

"I've made the statement, I don't need to say anything else on it."

Is he right? Well, Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt believes so.

"They are not directly relevant to us, to be honest," Schmidt said in response to Jones's "scummy" jibe.

"Those words don't impact on how we play or how his team plays and that's our focus."

After issuing his statement, Jones batted away question after question on the matter - although he did concede that he would potentially review his public and private commitments outside of rugby once the Six Nations is out of the way.

At least he still retains the backing of his players, with Anthony Watson claiming the Australian is "a great coach and a great man".

An Irish Rugby Football Union spokesman confirmed that they had received a phone call from their English counterparts to apologise for Jones' remarks, although it's also understood that the 58-year-old will not face any disciplinary action from the RFU.

All of those involved now feel that it's time to draw a line under his comment in what has been a rather embarrassing incident for both Jones and the RFU that could easily have been avoided.

What may not be so easily avoided, however, is a third straight Six Nations defeat for the first time since 2006.

Ireland will arrive at Twickenham tomorrow determined to show how a team goes about winning a Grand Slam, having been the side that prevented Jones' team from doing exactly that in Dublin last year.

Schmidt's side have already wrapped up the Championship with a game to spare but, while Jones may have provided the extra motivation they needed for their trip across the Irish Sea, he believes the allure of claiming just their third men's Grand Slam in history is all the motivation they need.

"Ireland are preparing for a Grand Slam, they don't need any extra motivation," Jones added. "Having been in a position ourselves of going for the Grand Slam, I think the Grand Slam is enough motivation."

The big problem for England, though, is not what Jones says, or what Ireland can achieve, but whether they turn up or not.

For the first time in nine years, England go into a Six Nations match looking to avoid a third straight defeat and, following the poor performances in the defeats by Scotland and France, Jones has decided changes are needed - seven in personnel, 10 in total.

Dan Cole and Joe Launchbury, mainstays of England's starting line-up last year, have been replaced by Kyle Sinckler and George Kruis respectively, while Dylan Hartley is restored to his role as captain after passing a fitness test on Wednesday to prove he has recovered from his calf injury.

Both James Haskell and Sam Simmonds are included due to injuries taking their toll, but the removal of Danny Care and introduction of Richard Wigglesworth - named in the starting line-up exactly a decade after his last Six Nations start - and the decision to drop George Ford and move Owen Farrell to fly-half shows how England are going to play on Saturday.

"We just felt we needed to make some changes for this game," Jones explained.

"We need to get on the front foot against Ireland and we've selected a team to do that.

"It's good to have Dylan back from injury, he trained superbly yesterday. We've gone for an Owen, (Ben) Te'o and (Jonathan) Joseph midfield and we feel they can get us on the front foot.

"It's not what was missing in Paris, it's what Dylan brings to the side.

"He brings energy and enthusiasm, he's a tough guy and he's a good captain - that's what he will bring to the team on Saturday.

"We just think for this game those two (Wigglesworth and Farrell) can get us on the front foot against Ireland. We have to play a certain sort of way against Ireland.

"They've got a very distinct style of play and we feel those two are going to get us on the front foot."

What we can expect from England is a direct approach, one based around reliable kicking from the Wigglesworth-Farrell axis, and plenty of one-out carries from the likes of Sinckler and Haskell in an effort to go toe-to-toe with Ireland's approach.

It has brought Ireland 11 straight victories and put this side on the cusp of joining their greatest teams.

The question this weekend is will it bring England one?

Belfast Telegraph

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