Michael Cheika has accused England’s Dan Cole of illegal scrummaging throughout his career in a damning assessment of the prop and a fierce response in the Australia coach’s escalating war of words with Eddie Jones.
Following Jones’ criticism of the Wallabies’ scrum, Cheika hit back at his compatriot before their sides renew hostilities at Twickenham on Saturday and pointed to Cole’s yellow card in England’s 13th win in a row against Argentina.
“[Jones] was having a crack and he wants to talk about our scrum because we’re cheating, I think an important thing to note is he’s got to look at his own players. Because they are the ones [with] a prop with a yellow card,” Cheika said.
“That same prop’s been infringing the law since his career started probably, if not all of this year. It will be up to the referee as to who he believes; if he wants to be influenced by the other chap, that we are the ones scrumming illegally when they are the guys who have the yellow card against them, then it is really up to him.
“All we do is scrum square and try to get as much weight as possible. It is very obvious from the clips, if you want to watch them instead of the all vitriol, they will tell you the story.”
Cole came under criticism during England’s 3-0 series win during the summer with the World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer and the former Wallaby Phil Kearns questioning his technique after the first Test in Brisbane. Thirteen months ago it was Joe Marler in Dwyer’s crosshairs.
The England scrum coach, Neal Hatley, said: “It seems to be a common theme from Australian watchers. Dan Cole is one of the most respected tightheads in the world. He has been outstanding so far. On his day there’s not many better. When people have a go at him he just keeps his head down and maintains his form. He’s been a cornerstone of the England pack for a long time.”
Having largely kept his counsel during the summer, Cheika went on the attack on Monday and also claimed Jones has tarnished his legacy in his home country with caustic comments during England’s first series win in Australia.
Cheika also had an answer for Jones’ invitation to join him in meeting Jaco Peyper, the referee for Saturday’s game, to discuss the Australia scrum. “How can I refuse an invitation like that?” Cheika said. “It is funny how your tune changes. In the summer when we asked for those meetings, he was blowing up and he stormed out of one.”
Nathan Hughes is in line for a first England start in place of the injured Billy Vunipola, having trained on Monday following a foot injury. Semesa Rokoduguni or Marland Yarde will be recalled on the wing after Elliot Daly was suspended for three weeks for a red card against Argentina.