England head coach Eddie Jones looks to be putting the dramatics of the visit of Italy last Sunday behind him as he kicks off the mind games early, ahead of his side’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland in round four of the Six Nations on March 11th.
All the headlines in recent days have focused on Italy’s novel tactic of not contesting the breakdown against the English, resulting on 40 minutes of confusion for the home side.
Following the game Jones was highly critical of his counterpart Conor O’Shea’s application of the rules and expects a change in the rules by World Rugby.
While Bill Beaumont and co. debate the pros and cons of the no-ruck approach, Jones has turned his attentions to Vern Cotter’s Scotland.
Under Cotter, the Scots have been steadily growing in stature within world rugby and now rank fifth in the global rankings. Victories over Ireland on the opening day of the Six Nations and an emphatic win over Wales last weekend, leaves the northern country with the chance of a triple crown, their first since 1990.
Now, as reported by PlanetRugby, via Press Association Sport, Jones has sought to heap the pressure on the Cotter and his men ahead of the famous Calcutta Cup clash.
“Scotland are already talking it up. They’ve got belief, they’ve got confidence.
“Confidence leads to better performances and better performances lead to high expectation.
Jones then turns the screw.
“And now they have to carry the burden of Scotland for the next two weeks, so we’re looking forward to playing them.
“They are expected to win, aren’t they? They are talking about being on a roll and when you say you are on a roll you are pretty confident.
He then fire a reminder of England’s current form and record seeking winning streak.
“I don’t think you’ve ever heard me say we’re on a roll. We’ve won 17 games in a row and we’re not on a roll. We want to keep the Calcutta Cup here.
He then heaps praise on Scotland’s progress to date.
“I thought Scotland were outstanding against Wales, especially the simplicity of their tries.
“They ran straight, they are a really good Kiwi-coached side. They contest hard at the breakdown and are then very good in transition.
“They are a really well-coached side and everything is coming together for them.”
Finally, he can’t help but mention ‘ruck-gate’ one last time, insisting he is confident Scotland won’t resort to similar tactics.
“I’m sure Scotland will play proper rugby. We’re going to have a hard contest. They are going to come hard at the breakdown, it’s going to be a hard game of rugby”
This last statement serves to have one last go at Italy’s recent tactics, while at the same time flattering Scotland as if to ensure they won’t have any similar notions when the sides meet in eleven days time.
Classic Jones. The man clearly relishes in the mental tug-of-war that plays out in the days ahead of the biggest of clashes and with a chance to equal New Zealand’s 18 match winning streak on the line against Scotland, there really isn’t anything bigger on England’s horizon right now.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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