London - Eddie Jones has never been shy of
voicing an opinion and the Australian was at it again ahead of his home debut
as England coach, against Ireland in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.
For starters, the former Australia and
Japan coach called defending Six Nations champions Ireland
"risk-averse", saying they kick some 60 percent of their ball away.
"It has worked for them," Jones
said. "It is not the way I think you should play rugby but it has been
successful for them. They minimise their risk. They are a risk-averse team
because they kick the ball so much."
As if that was not provocative enough,
Jones made it clear on Thursday he would have no problems with England going
after Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton.
On one level this was a statement of the
obvious - teams routinely look to close down a key opposition playmaker such as
However, the fact Jones suggested Sexton's
parents should be concerned for the health of the stand-off, who has a long
history of concussion problems, may not have gone down well with Ireland, who
were adamant the goal kicker had suffered whiplash rather than a head injury in
this month's bruising 10-9 defeat by France.
"We target players all the time.
That's part of rugby, is it not?" Jones said. "There are 15 players
out there. Are we supposed to not run at one player?
"I'm not saying Sexton is a weak
defender. Maybe France did. We're going to be targeting players in the Ireland
"We want to win and you win a game of
rugby by attacking their weak points and to say that's unfair is just
England have won both their opening two
matches under Jones, defeating two of the Six Nations weaker teams in Scotland
(15-9) and Italy (40-9).
Saturday's match sees England back at
Twickenham for the first time since a crushing 33-13 defeat by Australia in
October saw them become the first host nation to bow out of a World Cup at the
For all the talk of change under Jones, 10
players who were involved in that loss to the Wallabies are in the starting
side to face an injury-hit Ireland, bidding to win a third straight Six Nations
England, now captained by hooker Dylan
Jones but with former skipper Chris Robshaw still in the back row, were
imprecise with much of their driving forward play against Italy in Rome last
Both of Jones's two changes to his starting
side are in the pack, with 21-year-old Saracens lock Maro Itoje set for his
first start after impressing off the bench against Italy, and loose head prop
Joe Marler anchoring the scrum.
Figures indicate that Jones's England team
have kicked even more ball away than Ireland, but the key issue is how well the
tactic is used.
England's 'dual' flyhalf strategy of
playing both George Ford and Owen Farrell gives them kicking options but
Ireland powerhouse centre Stuart McCloskey will be keen to mark his
international debut by testing the pair's midfield defence.
"To say Stuart will handle his debut
is probably an understatement; he always steps up to whatever is in front of
him," said Ireland wing Andrew Trimble, an Ulster team-mate of McCloskey.
Leinster flank Josh van der Flier will also
make his Ireland debut, in place of the injured Sean O'Brien.
Ireland have yet to win this season after
starting their title defence with a 16-16 draw against Wales.
Joe Schmidt, the Ireland coach, who has
come under fire from some Irish fans for too heavy a reliance on an aerial,
power-orientated game, has made five changes in all to the team edged out by
But they will still have enough on-field
experience to give England their sternest test yet as the home side continue
their quest for a first Grand Slam since their World Cup-winning year of 2003.