Six Nations

Jones has no interest in Calcutta Cup style trial

2018-02-23 12:41
Eddie Jones (Getty)

Edinburgh - Winning may not be everything in sport, but as far as England coach Eddie Jones is concerned it sure beats being "entertaining". 

Rugby union is much-given to bouts of soul-searching that see its complicated rule book repeatedly tinkered with in a bid to provide a better spectacle for fans. 

But a lack of spectators is unlikely to be an issue when Six Nations champions England face Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday for the latest edition of rugby's foundation Test, a fixture first played in 1871. 

The cliche of a Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield is that this is always the one match where, roared on by a home crowd, the Scots can throw a spanner in the works of an English juggernaut thanks to a combination of passion and native wit. 

Since Gregor Townsend, something of a mercurial playmaker in his time as a Scotland international, took over as coach last year, the Scots have indeed won plaudits for their attacking play while also enjoying some notable wins over Australia. 

No one has embodied their spirit of adventure more than Finn Russell. But, like the child in the nursery rhyme, when the fly-half is good "he's very, very good and when he's bad he's horrid". 

Scotland suffered a 34-7 defeat by Wales in their tournament opener and while they beat France 32-26 last time out, victory was only achieved after Townsend took off the faltering Russell and moved Greig Laidlaw from scrumhalf to flyhalf. 

By contrast England, who've won 24 of their 25 Tests under Jones since the Australian launched his Red Rose career with a 15-9 win at Murrayfield in 2016, have enjoyed a pair of victories in the opening two rounds, seeing off Italy 46-15 in Rome before edging Wales 12-6 at Twickenham. 

"What we want to know about ourselves is that we can tough it out in any situation," said Jones, who has recalled No 8 Nathan Hughes in place of the injured Sam Simmonds in the only change to his starting XV. 

"Don't ask me about style because style is irrelevant. Style is Ralph Lauren, or whatever brand you want it to be. Hugo Boss, Mont Blanc - they come in and out. But resilience and toughness stays and that is what we are trying to develop," added Jones, whose over-riding goal with England is to win next year's World Cup in Japan. 

Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, underlined his point by adding: "Test match rugby is about winning, it's not about entertainment...If you want to just entertain people, you generally find you are not in the job too long." 

Dylan Hartley has been captain for all but one of England's Tests under Jones and Saturday will see the Northampton hooker become the country's second-most capped player when he surpasses Jonny Wilkinson's mark of 91 appearances. 

"Dylan is not driven by personal milestones. He has given the team leadership. He has accepted and understood the responsibility more," Jones said. 

As for Russell, Jones added: "He is a talented boy and he showed against France that he can be world-class, but any 10 under pressure has to find a way to play well." 

Townsend, who has named an unchanged XV, said Russell's place was never under threat. 

"There was no doubt he would start (against England)," Townsend said of the Glasgow stand-off. 

The worry for Scotland, who came from behind to beat France, is that recovering from a sluggish start against England last year, is something else entirely particularly if Jones's men can, as they did in a dominating 61-21 Calcutta Cup win at Twickenham last year, cut through an often fragile midfield defence. 

Townsend, learning from Jones's example perhaps, none too subtly hinted that veteran referee Nigel Owens should be on the lookout for England straying offside. 

"It will be interesting to see whether they stay onside," Townsend said, prompting Jones to reply: "If he (Townsend) wants to talk about the referee, let him talk about that - I'm concentrating on the game; that's all I'm worrying about."

Read more on:    england  |  six nations  |  eddie jones  |  rugby
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