Former England and Lions star Austin Healey has criticised those who have suggested that Eddie Jones was to blame in someway for his despicable treatment at the hands of some so-called Scottish fans at Manchester station.
Jones, who was dignified in defeat following England’s 25-13 reversal to Scotland over the weekend, was verbally abused and jostled by a group of fans last Sunday morning, after travelling to Manchester to watch Manchester United to take on Chelsea as a guest of Manchester United’s legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The video of the unpleasant incident has gone viral and drawn widespread condemnation, with the Scottish Rugby Union highly critical of those involved. As a result of Sunday’s events, Jones has vowed not to use public transport again.
But some commentators have claimed that the Australian’s regular inflammatory pre-match comments, such as questioning if Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell could handle the pressure prior to the England game and labelling him Wales’ ‘third choice fly-half’, have made the 58-year-old fair game to the kind of incident he suffered on Sunday, a claim that has clearly irked Healey.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the outspoken pundit made his displeasure clear, highlighting the difference between mind games and abusing a member of the public:
“I find the suggestion utterly bizarre that Eddie Jones is fair game for the kind of treatment he received at Manchester station because of the comments he might make in the build-up to a match.
“Those are purely mind games with the opposition to get the upper hand. He is not trying to abuse a member of the public. People who say that he gets what he deserves are talking complete rubbish.”
The man known as the ‘Leicester Lip’, who picked up 51 caps during a six-year international career, also expressed his concern that more and more ordinary people feel that they can treat elite sportspeople in a different way to ordinary members of the public.
“It is also happening more and more, where people think they have a right to those involved in top-level sport, a right to treat you differently than if you were another human being: a builder or an accountant or a dentist or anybody.”
Before going on to blame Twitter and social media for playing a part in incidents such as the Jones one and saying that a repeat of these kind of incidents could lead to a separation between rugby stars and the general public, something which has already happened in football.
Healy also questioned if the perpetrators would have behaved the same way with the likes of imposing prop Joe Marler or one of the huge Vunipola brothers, emphatically stressing that they wouldn’t have.