Eddie Jones likes the sound of his own voice. Or if he doesn’t like the sound of it, he must certainly like the content of the sentences that come out of his mouth. He talks a lot; and sometimes he gets criticised for saying too much.
In the build-up first game of this Six Nations, where England travelled to the Stade de France, Jones was criticised for being too loud and openly confrontational in the build-up. Here, he was adamant that England would deliver “absolute brutality” on the young French side – words that were not received well by either the press or, seemingly, the French players who came out and demolished a shell-shocked England in the first half.
This led to wholesale criticism of the Australian coach. Jones was presented as putting his ego before that of the needs of the team and was questioned fantastically by Sonja MacLaughlan. He may not like to admit it, but he did temper his comments after that. England were unconvincing in that Scotland game, and all the talk after the World Cup of trying to make this side the best side ever seemed a hell of a long way away.
And anyway, Jones was nothing but a side show in the run in the Sunday’s match. The real talking point here was all about Farrell on Farrell. Who would outsmart who? What’s it like at the dinner table?? Do they still talk??? Are they still related????
It was cacophonous, but it allowed Jones to take a back seat for the second week running. There was talk about his selection of Joseph on the wing, but this was muted in comparison. Jones seemed more reserved, controlled, and for once, quiet.
And then, Sunday happened. England, to use his own words, unleashed absolute brutality in the first half against Ireland. The team, that before this game looked unflapped and unfased, were at sixes and sevens in the first half at Twickenham; and the 24-12 English victory that ensued has got Jones talking again.
“I thought the first half was outstanding. We played with intensity, we executed well, and we had the game won at half-time,” he said in a post-match interview.
“If it was a cricket match we could have declared. Second half they got some possession, got a few calls from the referee, and we had to defend well, and we did,” added the Australian.
Credit to the man: when he speaks, he certainly doesn’t mince his words.
And then on to the weekend, where England play host again but to Wales this time:
“We were really good against Scotland in difficult conditions and we took another step up and will take another step up when we play Wales. We’re just fitter, we’re able to play with more intensity and we will be better against Wales. We will have another 10% against Wales.”
Jones knows his side’s tails are up, and his talk matches that. He has his mojo back, and when the wind’s on his back he enjoys nothing more than winding up the press.
“We are going to go for six locks next week against Wales, give you something to write about. Look I don’t need vindication. I pick the team that I think is right for the week and you guys [the media] are so clever, you’re all clever so I’ve just got to suck it all up, enjoy what you say, try to learn from you, and maybe I can pick a better team next week. There’s a lot more to come.
“Every time England play Wales it’s the biggest game there’s ever been, so I don’t expect next Saturday week to be any different.”
Wales should be wary. To have Jones talking again might mean nothing for how his players prepare, but it shows that he is back to being his most comfortable.
By Will Sewell.