The England Rugby team’s management seem to love controversy. They go seeking in fact. Don’t they just love to rile people in an attempt to get a raise out of it.
Eddie Jones is the commander-in-chief for the goading. The Australian has attacked, usually passive aggressively, every coach he has come up against. in some way, shape or form.
He’s accused Wales of illegal scrummaging and Johnny Sexton as having ‘the bat phone to the referee’ to name just two outbursts but the biggest fuel cans he has thrown on fires was when he referred to Wales as a ‘shitty little place’ and after losing to Ireland he called his opponents the ‘scummy Irish’. These comments were made a sponsor’s dinner in 2017 and Jones was forced to apologise soon after the comments hit mainstream media.
They are all pointless mind games that rarely have substantial backing but it can get people’s backs up on occasion and that is good enough for the former Japan Head Coach.
Recently, Jones has been shown on big screens in the crowd watching Premiership matches and for some reason he has been getting jeered or booed. Perhaps the English public have seen enough of his talking and just want results.
England need results after an extremely shaky 2018. 5th in the Six Nations, a series defeat in South Africa and some less than convincing performances over the Autumn is better rectified by talking on the pitch rather than off it.
So just to calm everything down, Jones had a bright idea; let’s replace Paul Gustard with another outspoken figure in John Mitchell.
The former New Zealand Head Coach left his post at the Blue Bulls earlier this year and from a playing perspective he seems to have had a positive effect on England’s defence. They only conceded four tries against the Southern Hemisphere ‘big three’ and just one of those were at the hands of New Zealand.
Off the field however, he may have just thrown a motivational grenade at the Irish when, in an interview this week, he said:
He has a justifiable point. Conor Murray will spend most of Saturday Evening leathering the ball into the Dublin sky for people to chase.
It’s not great to watch and when they enter the England 22 they will keep it tight and use their powerful runners to make the hard yards, suck in defenders and then go wide.
If you’re not an Ireland fan then it isn’t what you want to watch as a purest. We all want to see New Zealand style counter attacking rugby but that is not Ireland’s strong point. What I have described above with regards to Ireland’s play is incredibly effective so why should they change for the watching, neutral public.
I wrote a fairly tongue in cheek article in 2015 that begged Gilbert to ensure they had spare balls because Murray was going to kick the leather of it. Sure enough he did just that. All game. Ireland won through a Robbie Henshaw try and two years later they scuppered England’s Grand Slam by frustrating them and not giving the ball away again.
England need momentum in a match. When they have the ball for long periods of time they wear you down and look to strike both close to the breakdown and out wide. The Red Rose like to build a rhythm and use that to be productive. If you make the game stop-start or keep the ball to yourself then England start to crumble. Japan and often, Italy, love to do this to Eddie Jones’ men.
Mitchell’s comments are actually a back handed compliment. Joe Schmidt has worked out where Ireland’s strengths lie and made them the best in the world in those areas.
Up front, he has a powerful and mobile pack. The Hooker, Sean Cronin, is almost as quick as the back row and in between those powerful units, Schmidt can wedge giants like Devin Toner and Iain Henderson to add ballast.
Over time, Schmidt has developed a game plan that defensively suffocates their opponents but also ensures that the opposing team has to play to Ireland’s tune.
It’s a winning combination and no one in the Ireland camp will, nor should they, apologise for that.
Test match rugby is about winning and that is what the men in green do week in and week out.
Compare them to Exeter in the Premiership. It is constantly brought up that Exeter are boring until they have a lead and then make it look like they can go wide and play freestyle rugby.
In my opinion I think that is right. Box kick and chase, ball up the jumper and power over the line. It works in England but fails them in Europe.
In England they have a Premiership title though and I guarantee that any Gloucester or Sale fan right now would swap a few of Danny Cipriani’s no look passes or Faf de Klerk’s hi-jinx around the field for that coveted honour in the last 12 years.
The record books don’t lie and when England won the biggest trophy of them all in 2003 do you think any of their fans were bothered that their style of play was often criticised as boring? No.
Were they the best all round rugby team in the world at the time? Yes.
Ireland or New Zealand is that teams right now and expect Ireland to be ‘boring’ on Saturday. The history books tell you this will be low scoring but brutal.
Ireland’s last three scores against England at the Aviva Stadium read 6, 19 and 13. They have won with the last two of those scores and by only scoring one try in each match.
They dominated both of those fixtures and deserved the win because they know how to beat England. It is as simple as that.
They now know how to beat everyone in the world and they just need to prove it until the end of November this year.
No one will care about John Mitchell’s comments then and there is nothing boring about lifting trophies above your head whether that be in Ireland, mainland Europe or in Japan.