Eddie Jones expects there to be “an organised campaign” to destabilise England in the coming days, a process that has already begun with the former Wallaby hooker, Phil Kearns, accusing prop Dan Cole of scrummaging illegally.
Jones is all too aware that comments of a similar nature by former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer on the technique of Joe Marler prior to the World Cup game in October had the desired effect, with the loosehead prop penalised four times as England’s scrum disintegrated.
The head coach has steeled his players for more of these psychological ploys as Australia summons all the help it can muster in order to prevent England, who have risen to third in the world rankings, closing out their first series win over the Wallabies in Melbourne on Saturday.
“Of course we are expecting more,” said Jones. “Joe Marler’s not on the tour but it is a wonder someone hasn’t had a go at him from here. Now it’s Dan Cole’s turn. It’ll be someone else’s turn next.
“Phil is part of an organised campaign and he is playing his role, a very good role. Every couple of days someone comes up with something. I have been part of it myself. So let’s not beat about the bush. We know how it works here.”
It was, in fact, Australia who suffered at the scrummage in the first Test with Cole’s opponent, Scott Sio, sin-binned.
“We’ll let the referee adjudicate, and I have got great confidence in Craig Joubert,” said Jones. “He’ll referee the game and he won’t let Phil Kearns referee the game. Every side I coach, I coach them to play legally. We want to scrum straight, we want to scrum square, we want to scrum at them. We were disappointed on the weekend that we weren’t allowed to scrum at them. A couple of times when we were allowed to scrum, we took them.”
Jones has already won a minor skirmish in these tit-for-tat manoeuvres in forcing Fox Sports to apologise for the puerile and disrespectful line of questioning directed towards the England head coach following Saturday’s 39-28 win, with reporter and former Wallaby Stephen Hoiles insinuating that Jones had been too intimate with his assistant coach, Glen Ella, speaking of them looking “lubed up”.
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There was an email exchange with Jones before Hoiles was quoted on the Fox website as saying: “I have offered an apology and I will put my hand up and wear this one.” Jones is right to be on his guard, although it did appear to be taking things too far when the England head coach questioned whether Wallaby No 8 David Pocock would actually miss the second Test, even though it was announced yesterday that he would be ruled out for six weeks with a fractured eye socket.
“I don’t know if he is going to be in or out, and we will prepare as though he is going to play,” said Jones. “We wish him a speedy recovery, and I just hope he doesn’t recover in time for Saturday, but you never know.”
Jones was invited into the Australia camp as an official observer during the 2001 Lions series, having been in charge of the ‘A’ side that inflicted the only midweek defeat of the Lions on that tour, at Gosford, and he took over as Wallaby coach shortly after that series ended.
Martin Johnson’s Lions won the first Test in tumultuous fashion, in Brisbane at the Gabba, only to see the series snatched away from them in the finale at Sydney, Australia having against all odds reversed the Lions’ seemingly unstoppable momentum during the second Test, in Melbourne.
There was no over-the-top reaction in the England dressing-room last Saturday in Brisbane as Jones deliberately dampened any premature celebrations by going through the crushing events for the Lions players of that 2001 tour.
“Everyone’s slapping them on the back, telling them how good it is, so we need to keep working to get the focus spot-on,” said Jones. “It takes one player to get complacent and you lose the game, one sloppy pass like we saw in that Lions 2001 series, one slopping overhead pass and the series changes. Complacency is around the corner, it’s sitting there and you need to make sure it doesn’t come in.”
There has been no let-up in the England camp, the entire squad bar three players with bumps and bruises – James Haskell, Mike Brown and Courtney Lawes – going through a vigorous session at their training base at Scotch College only 38 hours after the final session at the Suncorp Stadium. Dylan Hartley gathered his players around at one point to forcibly remind them that Brisbane counted for nothing if they let it slip now. Australia have never lost the second Test of a three-match series.
“Dylan is inspirational as a leader,” said Jones, who has been paying particular attention to England’s defence, which conceded four tries. “Our defence is a major concern. Australia will be desperate to win. We will have to play our best 80 minutes of the season on Saturday.”